Friday, December 21, 2007

Certification - Is it worth it?

For years I've toyed with the idea of getting a Microsoft certification. Usually I haven't actually done so because of time issues but also there has always been the question of "is it worth it". I know that ten years ago there was a huge problem with "Paper MCSEs", basically people who would go to brain dump sites and memorize the answers, take the test and get a ton of certs in a short time.

My thought on this is that times have changed and the new generation of certifications is worth pursuing. Now, to be honest, much of my belief comes from reading Microsoft's own marketing materials. Personally though, I've decided to pursue the MCTS: .NET Framework 2.0 Web Applications on the way to the more advanced Professional Developer: Web Developer. In fact I'm working through the MS Press study material now.

My question to everyone out there though are several:

  • What are your thoughts and experiences with Microsoft certifications?
  • Do they help you get a job or are they just resume fodder that no one pays attention to?
  • In the process of studying for the exam do you expand your knowledge into areas you didn't know a lot about (This is what I'm finding)?

So hurry up and answer, my career may depend on it :)

Christmas Vacation

Well, I'd like to tell all my loyal reader (not plural, in fact maybe not even singular), that I won't be posting for a week or so while I'm off visiting family and in-law family for the holidays. But don't despair as I'm working on a whole lot of new things for the new year.

  • A series on all the cool stuff being put out by the Windows Live team
  • An ongoing discussion on how to continue to advance in this field
  • I hope to cross post an article or two at CodeProject with demos / samples of cool new technology web work

Hopefully Christmas and the new year will bring us all lots of cool gadgets / toys and the motivation to continue to do whatever it takes to keep pushing ourselves in our learning.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

CodeMash - Preview

For those of you who haven't heard, there is a new conference in town, CodeMash. Almost literally 'in town' for those of us in NorthEast Ohio. For an area that doesn't have a DevCares event (yes, I'm bitter about that) and who even get skipped by MSDN Events sometimes (thanks Bill), this is an incredible opportunity right in our backyard.

One of the wonderful things about this conference is that the presenters and participants are not (all) completely locked into a particular technology but are willing to branch out and see what is cool regardless of who builds it. In today's technology world of here today and de-listed from NASDAQ tomorrow (small inside joke there, Dave) it's always important to know what's coming up next and what it's capabilities are.

Another great thing about this conference, it's not sponsored by a single tech company but by several. There are going to be speakers from Microsoft, Adobe, Google, national and local consulting firms as well as a bunch of other people you've probably heard of. Last year they even had ScottGu, wow.

So anyway, It sounds like a cool conference and I hope to learn some cool stuff there. Oh, and I didn't post this just to possibly win an ultra-cool swag bag from Jeff Blankenburg, honest :).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

To Code or not To Code - Defined

To a programmer the phrase "To Code or not To Code" has multiple meanings and I've asked it in each way multiple times. Here I will attempt to explain what it means to me and why I choose it as the title of this blog.

Meaning one:
"To Code or not To Code" is another way of saying "Build it or Buy it" or to state in a even simpler fashion, "is it worth our time to develop a custom X when we can but one that does pretty much the same thing." This is a common dilemma at many companies and can be as small in scope as should we use a custom ASP.NET grid control from company X or should we build our own based on the stock ASP.NET DataGrid control or it can be as complex as should we build our own credit card processing application or just use one built by 1000 other companies. This question nearly always has proponents on either side and coming to a conclusion is rarely simple. Often the "right" decision is not known until months or years after the actual decision is made, usually the wrong one.

Meaning two:
"To Code or not To Code" is a statement you will hear often from developers of all flavors (except maybe LAMP, those guys are weird :)) when they reach 8-12 years of experience and start to notice that the number of jobs at their level is dropping off considerably. It is usually a decision as to whether to remain a coder or to move into either management or architecture. but can also include leaving the field entirely. It is closely related to the "mid-life crisis" but rarely involves a small convertible. I and several people I know are going through this at various levels and I guess we'll see what the outcome is.

Meaning three:
"To Code or not To Code" is also, of course, just a snarky paraphrasement of Shakespeare made by a person to whom that is about the only line of his works we know. Like me. That's about all there is to this one so I guess it's not really a separate meaning but I HAD to point out this reference to the obvious sarcasm challenged.

So in conclusion, I chose the name for the blog to reflect choices that programmer types must make in their careers, with a healthy dose of sarcasm thrown in. Enjoy.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Buckeye Traffic

Anyone that has ever driven in Ohio in the winter knows that the roads are not always um.... great. For several years I have been visiting a site maintained by ODOT ( that shows the ice/snow condition of major roads throughout the state. Previously the user interface of this site has been less than perfect. In fact, it had one behavior that annoyed me to no end, it would expand the browser window to full screen size upon entering the site, the user had no warning or option. Even with the bad user interface though I used the site often since the data was quite helpful.

This weekend we had the first real nasty storm of the season so I surfed on over to the same old site and apparently it's been rebuilt, quite nicely in fact. They have built the application using ASP.NET using Windows Live Maps as a platform. I can't swear to it but I think they are also using ASP.NET AJAX, I think I recognize a few pieces of the AJAX Control Toolkit even.

There are a couple of pieces that are not perfect:
  • Load times are quite long sometimes, apparently the State can afford a good site but not bandwidth

  • When a user scrolls the map the data does not reload
Now, I don't want it to sound like those problems take away from the app because they are only minor issues. Overall the it is a huge step forward and a great example of using Live Maps as a platform and a practical use of AJAX.

One question I have though: Who built it?

MSDN Event - Cleveland 12/13/07

This is the first review of an event I've attended so if there is more (or less) anyone wants to hear let me know. Not like anyone is reading this yet anyway.

Like all MSDN events there were three sessions and for once all of them sounded good in the marketing materials. Usually there are only one or two good ones and you have to sit through something you don't care at all about to get to the good ones. Bill Steele gave this presentation as he is the Developer Evangelist for this region so he has been doing this for a while now. Overall I think all of the sessions were good this time but I still came away disappointed. Part of my lack of enthusiasm I blame on having already downloaded trials of Expression Blend and VS2008 so I already knew much of what he was showing. The other issue was since this was at the end of the quarter, his last presentation in fact, much of the material was already outdated and there weren't any handouts left (DVDs or t-shirts).

The venue was fine as long as the fire alarm doesn't evacuate us all and there is enough room for everyone. Oh yea, the fire alarm DID go off and there wasn't enough room. Maybe it's time for a bigger room. Overall though the venue was fine, I was there for the content anyway, not the premium seating.

First Session: What’s New for Web Development in Visual Studio 2008
The problem with this was he was demoing the Beta 2 bits instead of RTM bits. Overall though this was a good session, nothing that I didn't already know from reading ScottGu's blog or playing around in it myself.

Second Session: A New Paradigm for Data Development with Web Based Data Services
This was a very good session. Bill gave an overview of LINQ and then got into LINQ to Entity and Astoria. Since I hadn't really looking much into LINQ yet I found this session to be very informative. These look to be very cool technologies but won't work for the app I'm working on at the moment. I will definitely have to play around with it more though as it seems like cool stuff.

Third Session: Building Rich, Dynamic Web Experiences with Microsoft Silverlight, ASP.NET and ASP.NET AJAX
This was basically a Silverlight/XAML demo. While I didn't learn anything new it was still cool. Silverlight / XAML / Expression Blend just tend to demo well as it's easy to create complex animations. Now, what he didn't show is the learning curve to create anything actually functional, that's a little harder. Still it's cool stuff and I can't wait to build a production anything with it.

So overall in this rambling I left feeling deflated but when I think back on it I think it was worth missing half a day's pay to go.


Welcome to the first installment of my new blog. With all of the cool tools and such that are either recently released or soon to be released I thought it a good time to add to the clutter of opinions about all things web development.

Expect that soon I'll be posting about my experiments in XAML, AJAX, Robotics or similar things. Also there will be reviews / recaps of events I attend and possibly even interesting problems I encounter as part of work.

Don't worry, the first real post should come along shortly (but if I don't get to work soon I'll have way too much time to post).