Monthly Archives: September 2007

Amex, come on. It’s security 101

I did not expect this from Amex. Managing numerous userid/paswords is hard and as was bound to happen, I could not recollect my password for the Amex site. Ok, no big deal. I’ll just reset it. Take a look at Amex’s password reset screen.

Amex Password Reset

The password needs be between 6 and 8 characters. So why the heck do you even let me enter 9 characters? No special characters? Oh, come on! You are a financial institution for crying out loud!!

Had it not been for the fact that Amex was the first credit card company that was willing to overlook my lack of credit history in the US and issue me a credit card, and that Amex is the only credit card accepted at Costco, I would have immediately cancelled it.

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A Microsoft Conspiracy

This is *MY* theory. Enjoy.

The term ALT.Net has been gaining a lot of momentum. There is even a conference. A while back Scott Hanselman raised the question Is Microsoft losing the Alpha Geeks? This generated lot of debate. If you have been listening to Hanselminutes regularly, you know that Scott is a pragmatic guy. He criticizes when criticism is due but never bashes anything. He is not a zealot. In recent episodes he has raised the issue of ALT.Net more than once and also, as a part of the “Be a Better Developer in 6 months” program, will be teaching himself Ruby and Ruby on Rails. So you get a feeling that Scott, the alpha developer he is, was slowly drifting away from Microsoft.

Now, if you listen to this episode of Hanselminutes, where Scott interviews David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH) and Martin Fowler at the Rails Conference, you hear the passionate voice of DHH and the mature voice of Martin. Couple of times DHH expresses his displeasure at the way Microsoft is doing things. Mind you, he does not bash anything. That is a great trait. You talk about the shortcomings, have opinions, but don’t just dismiss anything and everything MS as BS.

If you listen carefully, you can sense Scott being very cautious when talking about Microsoft. He says Microsoft has been, indirectly paying his mortgage. I identify myself as a .Net Web Developer and I don’t apologize for that. Like Scott, I too have benefited from using Microsoft Technologies. Yes, there are short comings, things can be better, but then I am not a basher. I am looking at and trying to indulge in alternatives. But then I am just another 5:01 Developer.

Back to the conspiracy. The ALT.Net movement is kinda a like a rebellion against Microsoft. How do you quell a rebellion? You take out the leaders. You convince them to come into your fold. As a first step, Microsoft decided to directly pay Scott’s mortgage and scooped him up as divulged here. Hmmm. I am happy for Scott. And wish him the best and hope he can still continue to be the independent voice and champion he has been.

All seemed to well until this was revealed. Now, now, now. I think I am on to something here. I considered Phil Haack to be a first class rebel. Maybe it’s the last name. Maybe it’s his Gravatar. Phil and friends created SubText when DasBlog was available. Then they went on to create SubSonic with NHibernate, LLBLGen and a host of other tools around. If you have not checked out Subsonic, stop everything now and check it out. It’s a cool toolset created by a bunch of smart people. I have written code generators in the past and am looking for a good DAL tool. I dug the code, discovered a few issues, submitted work items on codeplex and the fixes where rolled in by the end of the week. Wow!! Great job guys.

There you have it. First Scott, now Phil. So who’s next? All you Alt.Net folks, you have been forewarned. Watch out. Here comes Microsoft.


Static v/s Dynamic and the Corporate Developer

After reading this *very good* blog post by Sidu, I had mixed reactions. The post is no doubt good. If you haven’t read it, go ahead and hop over. I won’t summarize it here and take away from the effect of reading it first hand. I am off to go on a tangent here .

Static, dynamic, C#, VB.Net, Ruby, .Net, and heck even Java. That’s a lot of hammers to “nail” the problem. The business problem we are trying to solve, that is. I agree with Sidu that getting the job done is paramount. My question is, if you are a corporate developer, what choices or freedom do you have selecting the right hammer? The business stake holders do not care what hammer sends the nail in, as long as it is not the proverbial last-nail-in-the-coffin.

Say, you work for a great company, joined at an early stage in your career, and suddenly you realize Ruby, or heck C# is the “language that talks to you” like Scott says in this episode of Hanselminutes on F#. What are your choices? You cannot start coding in C# (not that it really matters with the framework) or whip out an application in Ruby or use the Rails framework.

Do you look for a new job? Who is going to hire a VB developer who now thinks Ruby is the call? Recruiters won’t even respond to you.

My question is, how do you go about, say, implementing an application in Ruby on Rails in a non-ruby shop? How do you convince the stakeholders that this shiny new hammer is perfect for the nail? Take my former employer, Blackbaud, for example. Blackbaud is a VB.Net shop. A bunch of extremely sharp guys run the product development department.

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Working at Blackbaud is great. But then, when you wake up with an itch for Ruby or C#, how do you convince the powers that be to switch. Does that even make sense to ask to switch? Probably not. So, in that situation what are your options? You don’t just walk out on a good career. Especially not if you have a family. You don’t just uproot everything just to scratch your itch. You just pick up the tried and tested hammer and go about banging the nails.

One solution is probably to work at a consulting company, say like Thought Works. This company looks like the “place to be for all things cool” if you read their blog. But, can you really pick up any new shining hammer to nail the problem? I don’t know. Having worked ay Infosys, I can say it is possible. The opportunities exist, unlike in a typical corporate setup. But I am not sure if you can just keep jumping on the latest bandwagon and roll along without gathering moss.

The true solution is to work on your core competencies and hone them. Languages come and languages go. Bandwagons are going to have their ride. But if you work on understanding the principles of business and concentrate on solving the problem, you will get far. Not all problems have a solution in a console app. Heck, if you can make the problem disappear, then I would say, you solved it. No problem, no solution needed. Follow that, and you will do good.

Now that we are way out on a tangent, to parapharase Sidu, *GET THE JOB DONE* and be careful with that hammer. Don’t drop it on your toes.


His Dark Materials

I chanced upon this trilogy via Chris Sell’s comment on a blog. This is a great work of fiction that I thoroughly enjoyed. It is a story of a girl and her adventures and the adventures are truly imaginative. Science, religion, fact, fiction and everything in between have been so fantastically inter woven into a tale, you have to experience it.

The trilogy is made up of The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

After “reading” The Golden Compass, well, I actually listened to the recording courtesy Books on CD, I was fascinated by the story, but could not completely appreciate or understand what was going on. The concept of demons and dust is mysterious, but overall, it is a fascinating story written with great imagination. The author, Philip Pullman and an ensemble of cast perform the reading. By the end of book one, you will want more.

The Subtle Knife is the best of the 3 books. Many things that were introduced in The Golden Compass make sense and the fast pace of the story makes it hard to put down. The book starts off with the introduction of a new and important character and never stops moving. There is never a dull moment.

The last book in the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass, was a little let down after experiencing The Subtle Knife. The story moves slowly and the author is just tying up all the loose ends to complete the story. At times it was a little boring and felt like the author just wanted to get it over with.

Overall, His Dark Materials is a great imaginative story and the clever melding of science, religion makes a good read. Pick it up and you wont be disappointed.

Enjoy


This is silly

Thanks to super developer Scott Hanselman picking up my previous blog post and linking it in his blog post I have been exposed, I mean, my blog post has been read many people. Everyone who read my post, I am sure, had an opinion. But only a few brave souls went through the hassle of creating a VOX account just to post a comment. Thank you guys.

VOX, this is silly.

Following is an excerpt from VOX’s help on posting comments

To comment on any item on Vox, you need to be a Vox member and signed in to your Vox account. If you’re not already a member but want to comment on an item, we make it easy for you to join as part of your first comment on Vox. Enter your name and email address along with your comment, and when you click the “Post” button, you’ll be taken to a short registration page with some of the fields already filled in for you.You’ll just need to enter a password and your birthday in order to get a confirmation code emailed to you. Then when you click on the confirmation link in your email, you’ll have your own Vox account, and you’ll see a screen that lets you know your comment has been posted along with a link to get back to the post where you left a comment. If you encounter any difficulties during registration, then take a look at Sign in or Registration Problems for suggestions.Let’s review that

1. To post a comment you need to join VOX. You need to make up with a password
2. Next you need to specify your birth date. I guess this is for legal purposes. But on the web nobody knows you are a dog.
3. Then you will be emailed a confirmation link to activate your account

Why?

Here is VOX’s explanation

Because Vox only allows other members to leave comments, it’s a safe environment that encourages trust and openness.

Safe? how? I just created an account with an email address, someone’s birth date. I am not sure if I can hand it out to folks who want to post comments.

Trust? Just because the commenter is a VOX member, how does that make him/her trustworthy?

Openness? What? You must be kidding. I don’t get it.

I am in the process of moving my blog from VOX. I am deciding between WordPress.com and Blogger. Check out

https://braincells2pixels.wordpress.com and http://braincells2pixels.blogspot.com

 I have moved my blog from VOX to wordpress.com

And to the brave souls, thanks again.