Jay Harris is Cpt. LoadTest

a .net developers blog on improving user experience of humans and coders
Home | About | Speaking | Contact | Archives | RSS
 
Filed under: Events | Programming

The new season of Come Jam With Us in Ann Arbor is upon us. Come Jam With Us is a weekly software developers' study group in Ann Arbor for gaining exposure to and learning about many different software development topics. The group originally started in late 2008 by a group of developers looking for a way to help each other prepare for and pass one of the Microsoft .NET exams, and now has hour-long weekly Jam sessions covering Java, Ruby, .NET, F#, Silverlight, Design Patterns, and more.

The Winter/Spring 2010 Schedule begins this Tuesday, February 2nd, and continues every week until early May. Come Jam With Us in Ann Arbor, at the offices of SRT Solutions, 206 South 5th Ave, Suite 200. More information, including the prerequisites for each session (such as what software you need to have pre-installed), is available at the group's web site, http://www.comejamwithus.org.

Come Jam With Us in Ann Arbor

Every Tuesday, 5:30p-6:30p
February 2nd through May 5th, 2010

SRT Solutions
206 S. 5th Ave, Suite 200
Ann Arbor, MI 48104 | Map

Winter/Spring 2010 Jam Schedule

2-02 : Django with Darrell Hawley
2-09 : ASP.NET MVC2 with Jay Harris
2-16 : RESTful Web Services with Mike Smithson
2-23 : Erlang with Carl Wright
3-02 : MVVM with Brian Genisio
3-09 : F# (Part 1 of 3) with Chris Marinos
3-16 : F# (Part 2 of 3) with Chris Marinos
3-23 : F# (Part 3 of 3) with Chris Marinos
3-30 : WPF with Anne Marsan
4-06 : Getting to know jQuery with Dennis Burton
4-13 : Testing with WatiN with Jay Harris
4-20 : Adobe Air with Bill Heitzeg
4-27 : ActiveMQ with Becky Glesner
5-04 : NoSQL MongoDB with Dennis Burton

Sunday, 31 January 2010 20:28:41 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [3] - Trackback

Filed under: ASP.Net | MVC

In ASP.NET MVC, the default signature for a Details action includes an Int32 method argument. The system works fine when the expected data is entered, and the happy path is followed, but put in an invalid value or no value at all, and an exception explodes all over the user.

The parameters dictionary contains a null entry for parameter 'id' of non-nullable type 'System.Int32' for method 'System.Web.Mvc.ActionResult Details(Int32)' in 'MvcSampleApplication.Controllers.WidgetController'.

The following solution applies to the first version of the ASP.NET MVC framework. If you are looking for a solution in the ASP.NET MVC 2 framework, try Validating ASP.NET MVC 2 Route Values with DefaultValueAttribute.

By default, the third section of an ASP.NET MVC Route is the Id, passed as a method argument to a controller action. This value is a string, defaulting to String.Empty, but it can be parsed to other types such as an integer for a default Details action. The problem stems from when invalid values or missing values are passed to these integer-expecting actions; MVC handles the inability to parse the value into an integer, but then throws an exception trying to pass a null value to a Controller Action expecting a value type for a method argument.

A common solution is to convert the method argument to a nullable integer, which will automatically cause the argument to be null when the route value specified in the URL is an empty or non-integer value. The solution works fine, but seems a little lame to me; I want to avoid having to check HasValue within every action. I have to check for invalid identity values anyway (a user with an id of –1 isn’t going to exist in my system), so I would much rather default these invalid integers to one of these known, invalid values.

Using a custom ActionFilterAttribute, I can accomplish my goal. Prior to executing my Controller Action, an ActionFilterAttribute can validate that the specified route value meets an expected type, and correct the value to a default value if this validation fails; this will allowing me to keep that method argument as a value type integer and avoid Nullable<int>.HasValue.

ForceIntegerRouteValueAttribute class

public sealed class ForceIntegerRouteValueAttribute : ActionFilterAttribute
{
  private readonly int _defaultValue;
  private readonly string _routeValueName;

  public ForceIntegerRouteValueAttribute(string valueName, int defaultValue)
  {
    _routeValueName = valueName;
    _defaultValue = defaultValue;
  }

  public override void OnActionExecuting(ActionExecutingContext context)
  {
    base.OnActionExecuting(context);

    int testValue;
    if (!context.ActionParameters.ContainsKey(_routeValueName) ||
        !int.TryParse(context.RouteData.Values[_routeValueName].ToString(),
                      out testValue))
    {
      context.RouteData.Values[_routeValueName] = _defaultValue;
      context.Result = new RedirectToRouteResult(context.RouteData.Values);
    }
  }
}

The attribute accepts a string matching the name of the route value to analyze and a default value to assign to the route value should the validation fail. The override on OnActionExecuting will cause the validation to fire immediately prior to the Action being executed. The method attempts to parse the route value to an integer, and if it fails it will set the route value to the default value and restart processing of the route. RedirectToRouteResult restarts the route processing over again, since to get to this point, the method must have changed a route value, and without the redirect, the action would continue on with the original value. This will also redirect the browser to route matching the new route value, such as redirecting ~/Widgets/Details/Foo to ~/Widgets/Details/0.

Usage

public class WidgetsController : Controller
{
  [ForceIntegerRouteValue("id", 0)]
  public ActionResult Details(int id)
  {
    return View();
  }
}

By simply adding the attribute to the Action, I can now validate that my identity is an integer, allowing for some level of trust into user input values, and do so without having to laden my code with unnecessary value checks. This same idea can be used for any sort of pre-filtering, which could also include checking that the number contains no more than two decimal places. Just don’t go too far with this idea. Familiarize yourself with Route Constraints, too, as there will be times that a constraint can better serve your business needs than an Action Filter. But for areas where this solution does serve well, such as eliminating Nullable<int> in Action arguments, this option just seems cleaner to me. And in the ASP.NET MVC World of keeping Controllers as light as possible, I like clean.

Monday, 30 November 2009 23:12:51 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1] - Trackback

Filed under: Blogging | dasControls | JavaScript | SEO

If you have read my post on Misconceptions on JavaScript Plugins and SEO, you know that search engines don't do JavaScript. Though these plugins and libraries (such as one for pulling your latest Twitter Updates) are nice for adding dynamic content for your users, they are just end-user flare and add nothing to your SEO rankings. They also put an unnecessary tax on your users, as each client browser is responsible for independently retrieving the external content; the time for your page to render is extended by a few seconds as the client must first download the JS library then make the JSON/AJAX request for your content.

In response to this, I have created dasControls, a library of custom macros for dasBlog (the blogging engine that powers www.cptloadtest.com). I have started with content that is driven by custom JavaScript libraries and convert the content and data retrieval into server-side controls. For now, dasControls contains only a Twitter Status macro, but I intend to add more controls in the coming months.

dasControls [Build 1.0.0.0] : Download | Project Page

dasControls TwitterStatus Macro

The TwitterStatus macro uses server-side retrieval of your Twitter data, eliminating all client-side JavaScript calls for your tweets. By placing the Twitter request on the server, the data is also available to any search engines that index your page. Additionally, data is cached on the server, and new updates are retrieved based on the polling interval you specify. When using real-time client-side JavaScript calls, there is a 2-5 second delay for your end-users while the data is retrieved from Twitter; by caching the data on the local server, this delay is eliminated, and the content for each user is delivered from the local cache, lightening the load for the end-user while avoiding an undue burden for high-traffic sites.

Macro Name: TwitterStatus
Macro Syntax: <% TwitterStatus("user name"[, number of tweets[, polling interval]])|dasControls %>

  • User Name : String. Your Twitter handle.
  • Number of Tweets : Integer. The number of tweets to retrieve and display. [default: 10]
  • Polling Interval : Integer. The number of minutes between each Twitter retrieval. [default: 5]

Relevant CSS:

  • TwitterStatusItem : CSS class given to each Tweet, rendered as a DIV.
  • TwitterStatusTimestamp : CSS class given to each Tweet's timestamp ("32 minutes ago"), rendered as an inline SPAN within each Tweet element.

Using the Macro within a dasBlog Template

This macro is for use in the dasBlog HomeTemplate. The macro works just like any out-of-the box macro, except that you must also include the alias specified within dasControls entry the web.config (the value of the "macro" attribute). Your twitter handle is required, though you can also optionally include the number of Tweets to pull from Twitter (default: 10) and the number of minutes between each Twitter data request (default: 5). Because everything happens on the server, there is no need to include any of the Twitter JSON JavaScript libraries or HTML markup.

<% TwitterStatus("jayharris", 6, 5)|dasControls %>

Installation and Setup of dasControls

Download dasControls, extract the assembly into your dasBlog 'bin' directory.

dasControls [Build 1.0.0.0] : Download | Project Page

Enable Custom Macros within your dasBlog installation, and add the Twitter macro to your list of Custom Macros.
First, ensure that the <newtelligence.DasBlog.Macros> section exists within your web.config:

<newtelligence.DasBlog.Macros>
  <!-- Other Macro Libraries -->
</newtelligence.DasBlog.Macros>

Second, ensure that the Macros Configuration Section is defined in to your web.config <configSections>:

<configSections>
  <!—Other Configuration Sections -->
  <section requirePermission="false" name="newtelligence.DasBlog.Macros"
    type="newtelligence.DasBlog.Web.Core.MacroSectionHandler,
      newtelligence.DasBlog.Web.Core" />
</configSections>

Third, add the dasControls library entry to the dasBlog Macros section:

<newtelligence.DasBlog.Macros>
  <add macro="dasControls"
    type="HarrisDesigns.Controls.dasBlogControls.Macros,
      HarrisDesigns.Controls.dasBlogControls"/>
</newtelligence.DasBlog.Macros>

Roadmap for dasControls

In the upcoming weeks and months, I plan on adding additional macros to the dasControls library, including Delicious, Google Reader's Shared Items, and Facebook. If you're interested in any others, or have any ideas, please let me know.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 22:33:55 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1] - Trackback

Filed under: Blogging | JavaScript | SEO

Search Engine Optimization is high on the radar, right now. Whether it be the quest for the first Coupon site in Bing, the highest Cosmetics site on Google, or the top-ranked "Jay Harris" on every search engine, the war is waged daily throughout the internet. For companies, it's the next sale. For people, it's the next job. Dollars are on the line in a never-ending battle for supremacy.

One of the contributing factors in your Search Engine Ranking is Content. Fresh, new content brings more search engine crawls. More crawls contributes to higher rankings. Search engines like sites that are constantly providing new content; it lets the engine know that the site is not dead or abandoned. And though this new content idea works out well for the New York Times and CNN, not everyone has a team of staff writers who are paid to constantly produce new content. So we shortcut. We don't so much have to have new content as long as we make Google think we have new content. There are hundreds if not thousands of JavaScript plugins out there to provide fresh content to our readers, ranging from Picasa photos, to Twitter updates, to AdWords, to Microsoft Gamercard tags. But I have to let you in on a little secret:

JavaScript Plugins do nothing for SEO.
Nothing.
Search engine spiders don't do JavaScript.

"This must be a lie. When I look at my site, I see my new photos, or my new tweets, or my new Achievement Points; why don't the spiders see it, too?" Well, it's true. Google Spiders, and most other Search Engine Spiders, don't do JavaScript, which is why JS provides no SEO contribution; spiders do not index what they do not see. A look through your traffic monitor, like Google Analytics, will often show a disparity between logged traffic and what is actually accounted for in Web Server logs. Analytics, a JavaScript-based traffic monitor, only logs about 40% of the total traffic to this site (excluding traffic to the RSS feed), which means that the other 60% of my visitors have JavaScript disabled. A JavaScript Disabled on 60% of all browsers seems like a ridiculously high percentage unless you consider that Spiders and Bots do not execute JavaScript.

Just like Google doesn't see the pretty layout from your stylesheet, Google also doesn't see the dynamic content from your JavaScript. Pulling down HTML, (since it is all just text, anyway) is easy; there's not even a lot of overhead associated with parsing that HTML. But add in some JavaScript, and suddenly there's a lot more effort involved in crawling your page, especially since there is a lot of bad JavaScript out there. So search engines just check what has been written into your HTML. They read the the URL, the keywords and META description, but only the content as rendered by the server. JavaScript is not touched, and JavaScript-based content is not indexed.

So how do you get around this? How do you get this SEO boost, since JavaScript isn't an available option?

Use plug-ins and utilities that pull your dynamic data server-side, rather than client-side. Create a custom WebControl that will download and parse your latest Twitter updates. Create a dasBlog macro to create your Microsoft Gamertag. By putting this responsibility on the server, not only will you make life easier on your end user (one less JavaScript library to download), but you also make this new content available to indexing engines, which can only help your Google Juice.

Update:

I've been working on a set of macros for dasBlog to start pulling my dynamic content retrievals to the server. Keep an eye out over the next couple of days for the release of my first macro, a Twitter Status dasBlog macro that will replace the need for the Twitter JS libraries on your site.

Technorati Tags: ,,
Monday, 31 August 2009 08:47:29 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] - Trackback

Filed under: ASP.Net | Events | Speaking
Lansing Day of .Net, 1 August 2009 - I'll be there!

This Saturday, August 1st, I will be speaking at Lansing Day of .NET 2009, at the Breslin Student Events Center at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan. This session will be the same ASP.NET Page Life Cycle talk that I gave last month at CodeStock.

Dev Basics: The ASP.NET Page Life Cycle

Jay Harris / Session Level: 100
When a request occurs for an ASP.NET page, the response is processed through a series of events before being sent to the client browser. These events, known as the Page Life Cycle, are a complicated headache when used improperly, manifesting as odd exceptions, incorrect data, performance issues, and general confusion. It seems simple when reading yet-another-book-on-ASP.NET, but never when applied in the real world. In this session, we decompose this mess, and turn the Life Cycle into an effective and productive tool. No ASP.NET MVC, no Dynamic Data, no MonoRail, no technologies of tomorrow, just the basics of ASP.NET, using the tools we have available in the office, today.

If you can make it, I recommend attending LDODN09. There are some great sessions lined up, and it is all being provided free-of-charge (though the event organizers are encouraging donations). Last year's event, held at Lansing Community College, was the first Lansing Day of .NET and the first event that I was involved in organizing. It went well, and from the moment it was over I was looking forward to the next one. I'm not on the organizing committee this year, but I am still sure that this one is destined to be great as well. They rented the Breslin Center! If I knew nothing else, that would be enough.

So come out to Lansing Day of .NET this Saturday. Registration is still open.

I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009 19:18:18 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] - Trackback

Filed under: ASP.Net | Dev Basics

The first installment of this series goes back to the beginning and describes each of the events within ASP.NET Page Life Cycle. Understanding the basic fundamentals of the ASP.NET Page Life Cycle, including the order and scope of influence for each of the Page Life Cycle events, will help ensure that you are executing your custom code at the right time, and in the right order, rather than stepping on yourself by conflicting with core ASP.NET framework functionality. But this is only part of the story, since there is more to the ASP.NET Page Life Cycle than just the page, itself.

ASP.NET Page & WebControl Event Execution Order

Pages would be nothing but a sea of crazy peach gradient backgrounds without the controls to display content and to interact with the user. In addition to the order of the various page events, it is often helpful to know the order in which a page and its controls execute a single event. Does Page.Load execute before Control.Load? Does Page.Init execute before Control.Init? Does myTextBox.TextChanged fire before myButton.Click? And what about myTextBox1.TextChanged versus myTextBox2.TextChanged?

Knowing the execution order of events within the control tree will make you a better ASP.NET developer. If you cannot answer each of those questions above (and maybe even if you can), keep reading.

About the Series

When a request occurs for an ASP.NET page, the response is processed through a series of events before being sent to the client browser. These events, known as the ASP.NET Page Life Cycle, are a complicated headache when used improperly, manifesting as odd exceptions, incorrect data, performance issues, and general confusion. It seems simple when reading yet-another-book-on-ASP.NET, but never when applied in the real world. What is covered in a few short pages in many ASP.NET books (and sometimes even just a few short paragraphs), is much more complicated outside of a "Hello, World!" application and inside of the complex demands of the enterprise applications that developers create and maintain in their day-to-day work life. As close to the core as the life cycle is to any ASP.NET web application, the complications and catches behind this system never seems to get wide coverage on study guides or other documentation. But, they should.

Part 1: Events of the ASP.NET Page Life Cycle
Part 2: ASP.NET Page & WebControl Event Execution Order
Part 3: Getting Started with ASP.NET Data Binding
Part 4: Wiring Events to your Page

Event Execution Order within the Control Hierarchy

At the core of the control-level event execution order is where the events fire with respect to the page. The majority of the events in the ASP.NET Page Life Cycle execute from the top, down, which is also referred to as outside-in. That is, the event is first executed on the page, such as Page.Load, then executed recursively through each of the page's controls, Control.Load, to the controls within controls, and so on. The two exceptions to this rule are Initialization and Unload. With these two events, the event is fired first on the child control, then on the container control, and finally on the page, known as a bottom-up or inside-out order.

But what if a control is dynamically added to the page during a later event? In this case, a control will fire events to catch up to the page (though a control will never exceed beyond what Page Event is currently executing). In other words, if a control is dynamically added during the PreInit page event, the control will immediately fire its own PreInit. However, if a control is dynamically added during the PreLoad event, it will fire PreInit, Init, InitComplete, and PreLoad, all in quick succession.

private void Page_PreInit(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
    Trace.Write("Executing Page PreInitialization");
    var textbox = new TextBox();
    textbox.Init += Control_Init;
    textbox.Load += Control_Load;
    textbox.ID += "TextBoxFromPreInit";
    form1.Controls.Add(textbox);
}

private void Page_Init(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
    Trace.Write("Executing Page Initialization (Should occur after controls)");
}

private void Page_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
    Trace.Write("Executing Page Load (Should occur before controls)");
    var textbox = new TextBox();
    textbox.Init += Control_Init;
    textbox.Load += Control_Load;
    textbox.ID += "TextBoxFromLoad";
    form1.Controls.Add(textbox);
}

private void Control_Init(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
    Trace.Write("Executing Control Init for " + ((Control)sender).UniqueID);
}

private void Control_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
    Trace.Write("Executing Control Load for " + ((Control)sender).UniqueID);
}

/*
Output: 

Begin PreInit		
Executing Page PreInitialization
End PreInit
Begin Init
Executing Control Init for TextBoxFromPreInit
Executing Page Initialization (Should occur after controls)
End Init
Begin Load
Executing Page Load (Should occur before controls)
Executing Control Init for TextBoxFromLoad
Executing Control Load for TextBoxFromPreInit
Executing Control Load for TextBoxFromLoad
End Load
*/

Event Execution Order for Sibling WebControls

The event execution order of parent and child controls is simple and straightforward. As if to maintain balance in The Force, the event execution order for sibling controls is a bit complicated. For siblings, this order is governed by three main and cascading criteria: the type of event that is being executed, the Page Event executing when the control was added to the page, and the index of the control within the parent's (or page's) Controls collection.

First, the event type is the primary governor of when an event is fired. Just like the order of Page Events, Initialize events always occur before Load events, and Load events always occur before Render events. The complication surrounds the several control-specific "PostBack Events," such as Click or TextChanged, as there are three PostBack event types: Changed Events, Validation Events, and actual PostBack Events. The first that fire are Changed Events, which include any event where the value changes, such as TextBox.TextChanged or DropDownList.SelectedIndexChanged. Changed events should include any custom Value manipulation for each of your form controls. Once the values are defined, Validation events are executed to assist with ensuring data integrity. Finally, once all values are defined and validated, PostBack Events, such as Button.Command or Button.Click, are executed. In most cases, these PostBack events will include the form submission logic, such as sending the email, transmitting data through a Web Service, or saving data to a database. The Changed Events type of events always fire before Validation events, which always fire before the PostBack Events types; TextBox.TextChanged before Validator.Validate before Button.Click.

If the events are the same, such as two TextBox controls that are both executing TextChanged, the second criteria to determine sibling event execution is when the control was added to the page. If a control was added in any of the Initialization events (PreInit, Init, InitComplete), it is executed first. If a control was added in any of the Load events, it is executed second. So, for the two TextBoxes, the TextChanged event for the TextBox added during Initialization will be fired before the same event for the TextBox added during Load. (txtAddedDuringInit.TextChanged will fire before txtAddedDuringLoad.TextChanged.)

If the executing event is the same, and the controls were added during the same Page Event, the final criterion for sibling execution is the index within the Controls collection. After the above two criteria are considered, events that still have equal weight are executed according to their index in their parent's Controls collection.

private void Page_Init(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
    TextBox textbox;
    textbox = new TextBox();
    textbox.TextChanged += Control_TextChanged;
    textbox.ID += "TextBoxFromInit1";
    form1.Controls.Add(textbox);
    textbox = new TextBox();
    textbox.TextChanged += Control_TextChanged;
    textbox.ID += "TextBoxFromInit2";
    form1.Controls.Add(textbox);
    textbox = new TextBox();
    textbox.TextChanged += Control_TextChanged;
    textbox.ID += "TextBoxFromInit3At0";
    form1.Controls.AddAt(0, textbox);
}

private void Page_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
    TextBox textbox;
    textbox = new TextBox();
    textbox.TextChanged += Control_TextChanged;
    textbox.ID += "TextBoxFromLoad1";
    form1.Controls.Add(textbox);
    textbox = new TextBox();
    textbox.TextChanged += Control_TextChanged;
    textbox.ID += "TextBoxFromLoad2";
    form1.Controls.Add(textbox);
    textbox = new TextBox();
    textbox.TextChanged += Control_TextChanged;
    textbox.ID += "TextBoxFromLoad3At0";
    form1.Controls.AddAt(0, textbox);
}

private void Control_TextChanged(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
    Trace.Write("Executing Control TextChanged for " + ((Control) sender).UniqueID
                + " / Position: " + form1.Controls.IndexOf((Control) sender));
}

/*
Trace Output: 

Begin Raise ChangedEvents
Executing Control TextChanged for TextBoxFromInit3At0 / Position: 1
Executing Control TextChanged for TextBoxFromInit1 / Position: 2
Executing Control TextChanged for TextBoxFromInit2 / Position: 3
Executing Control TextChanged for TextBoxFromLoad3At0 / Position: 0
Executing Control TextChanged for TextBoxFromLoad1 / Position: 4
Executing Control TextChanged for TextBoxFromLoad2 / Position: 5
End Raise ChangedEvents
*/

So, to address the questions from above: Page.Load does execute before Control.Load, as the Load event is executed outside-in, however, Page.Init executes after Control.Init, as the Init event is executed inside-out. The TextChanged event on myTextBox is fired prior to myButton.Click, as control ChangedEvents are executed before control PostBackEvents. And finally, regarding myTextBox1.TextChanged versus myTextBox2.TextChanged, it depends; the order is dependent upon where the controls exist within the entire hierarchy, when the controls were created, and upon their position within the Controls collection.

The execution order of control events within the page life cycle is a complicated mess, and fortunately does not come in to play often. But for when it does, it is important to know how everything plays together. I find that most often, the order is important when dynamically adding controls to the page outside of DataBinding (though I would consider this a design smell), when creating custom WebControls, or when working with control Changed Events and validation. Still, as with before, committing this to memory (or at least a link to a reference, such as this post) will help with making you a better ASP.NET developer and with creating higher quality applications.

So what's next? Part 1 covered the base ASP.NET Page Life Cycle, and this post covers the execution order of events on the page. As this series continues, we will discuss the details of the DataBinding events, and will dig in to some tips, tricks, and traps when developing ASP.NET applications.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009 18:26:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [2] - Trackback

Filed under: Events | Speaking

I enjoy being a speaker. I have learned a lot through my mentors, colleagues, and through other community speakers, and standing before a group of my peers and sharing my knowledge is one way that I can give back to the development community. By linking together my speaking and my blog, I can provide a central repository for the slide decks and demo code for my sessions and make these things available to the audience for further review. Here, you will find all of my slides and code for all past presentations, as well as information about all my past and future talks. This post will also be linked through my top navigation so that it can be easily found, and will also be regularly updated with any new schedules and slide decks.

Thank you to everyone who as attended any of my sessions, and as always, I encourage you to give me any feedback you have via SpeakerRate.

Upcoming Talks

I would love to speak at your meeting, event, user group, or conference; please feel free to contact me if you are interested.

.NET Users of Fort Wayne (NUFW), July 10, 2012

On July 10th, 2012, I will be presenting at the July meeting of the .NET Users of Fort Wayne (NUFW) in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The meeting's session will be "Your Spark Razored by NHaml: A Comparison of Popular ASP.NET MVC View Engines." | Event Site

St. Louis Days of .NET, August 3 & 4, 2012

On August 3rd-4th, 2012, I will be presenting two sessions at the St. Louis Days of .NET in St. Louis, Missouri. My sessions at the conference will be "Going for Speed: Testing for Performance” and “XCopy is Dead: .NET Deployment Strategies that Work." | Event Site

That Conference, August 12-14, 2012

I will be presenting at That Conference, a developer's conference in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, held August 12th through the 14th. I will be presenting "Serious Business with Node.js: Module Development." | Event Site

DevLink Technical Conference, August 29-31, 2012

At the DevLink Technical Conference, held in Chattanooga, Tennessee on August 29-31, I will be presenting three sessions covering development in Orchard and in node.js. The presentations will be "Serious Business with Node.js: Module Development," "Serious Business with Node.js: TDD for Node," and "Serious Business with OrchardCMS: Module Development." | Event Site

Presentations

ASP.NET MVC: A (Microsoft) Web Coder's Salvation

There was a time when everything was moving towards the desktop. This Internet thing was new and cool, but there was no way it would ever last. And no one knew how to code for the web, at least not anything beyond animated lava lamps and cute "Under Construction" images. So, to make coding for the web easier, they made ASP.NET to be just like coding for a desktop, using the same patterns, the same event-based model, and the same stateful approach. But the web isn't stateful, its only events are GET and POST, and is nothing like a desktop, so we tortured ourselves for years forcing a square peg through a round hole. The time has come for redemption, and its name is ASP.NET MVC. Spend an hour discovering how coding for the web is supposed to be--how it is today--and end your misery. Salvation awaits.
Slides | Code Walkthrough

Previous Sessions

Grand Rapids, Michigan | GRDevDay developer's conference | November 2011
Okemos, Michigan | Lansing Day of .NET | June 2011 | Event Site
Cincinnati, Michigan | Cincinnati .NET User Group | March 2011 | SpeakerRate
Cincinnati, Michigan | Cincinnati Financial (Internal User Group) | March 2011 | SpeakerRate
Kalamazoo, Michigan | Microsoft Developers of Southwest Michigan | September 2010 | SpeakerRate
Louisville, Kentucky | Kentucky .NET User Group | July 2010
Ann Arbor, Michigan | Ann Arbor .NET Developers | May 2010 | SpeakerRate
Lansing, Michigan | Greater Lansing User Group for .NET Developers | March 2010 | SpeakerRate
Ann Arbor, Michigan | A2<div> | February 2010 | SpeakerRate
Toledo, Ohio | North West Ohio .NET User Group | January 2010 | SpeakerRate
Flint, Michigan | Greater Lansing User Group for .NET Developers | January 2010 | SpeakerRate

Dev Basics: The ASP.NET Page Life Cycle

When a request occurs for an ASP.Net page, the response is processed through a series of events before being sent to the client browser. These events, known as the Page Life Cycle, are a complicated headache when used improperly, manifesting as odd exceptions, incorrect data, performance issues, and general confusion. It seems simple when reading yet-another-book-on-ASP.NET, but never when applied in the real world. In this session, we decompose this mess, and turn the Life Cycle into an effective and productive tool. No ASP.NET MVC, no Dynamic Data, no MonoRail, no technologies of tomorrow, just the basics of ASP.NET, using the tools we have available in the office, today.
Slides | Code

Previous Sessions

Ann Arbor, Michigan | Ann Arbor Day of .NET | May 2010 | SpeakerRate | Event Site
Flint, Michigan | Greater Lansing User Group for .NET Developers | September 2009 | SpeakerRate
Lansing, Michigan | Lansing Day of .NET developer's conference | August 2009 | SpeakerRate | Event Site
Knoxville, Tennessee | CodeStock 2009 developer's conference | June 2009 | SpeakerRate | Event Site

Bullets Kill People: A Presenter's Guide to Better Slides

Effective communication is a pivotal component of a success. Be it presenting at a user group, assisting with a Sales demo, or simply justifying to your boss the purchase of Visual Studio upgrades, you will give a presentation in your career. But the effectiveness of your presentation is not just about being well-spoken and having a prepared outline; the quality of a slide deck has as much impact on a presentation as the quality of the speaker. Slides can destroy. Slides can invigorate. Slides can shape the mood of your audience and bend it at will. Learn to harness this power; use it to tell your story effectively, persuasively, and leave your audience inspired.

Previous Sessions

Louisville, Kentucky | CodePaLOUsa | March 2012 | Event Site
New York, New York | Code Camp NYC 2011.2 developer's conference | October 2011 | Event Site
Hampton Roads, Virginia | MADExpo 2011 developer's conference | July 2011 | Event Site
Knoxville, Tennessee | CodeStock 2011 developer's conference | June 2011 | Event Site

Continuous Integration: More than just a toolset

Does your team spend days integrating code at the end of a project? Continuous Integration can help. Using Continuous Integration will eliminate that end-of-project integration stress, and at the same time will make your development process easier. But Continuous Integration is more than just a tool like CruiseControl.Net or TeamCity; it is a full development process designed to bring you closer to your mainline, increase visibility of project status throughout your team, and to streamline deployments to QA or to your client. Find out what Continuous Integration is all about, and what it can do for you.
Slides

Previous Sessions

Hampton Roads, Virginia | MADExpo 2011 developer's conference | June 2011 | Event Site
Columbus, Ohio | Central Ohio .NET Developers Group | March 2011 | SpeakerRate
Nashville, Tennessee | DevLink Technical Conference | August 2010 | SpeakerRate | Event Site
Wilmington, Ohio | Central Ohio Day of .NET | June 2010 | SpeakerRate | Event Site
Lansing, Michigan | Michigan Department of IT | December 2009 | SpeakerRate
Lansing, Michigan | Greater Lansing User Group for .NET Developers | November 2009 | SpeakerRate
Southfield, Michigan | Great Lakes Area .NET User Group | January 2009 | SpeakerRate
Toledo, Ohio | North West Ohio .NET User Group | January 2009
Sandusky, Ohio | CodeMash 2009 developer's conference | January 2009 | SpeakerRate | Event Site
Ann Arbor, Michigan | Ann Arbor .NET Developers | October 2008
Flint, Michigan | Greater Lansing User Group for .NET Developers | September 2008

The Geek's Guide to SEO

So, you have a web site. Your own soapbox to the world. As a developer, it seems easy for us to claim a spot on the world wide web, set up shop, customize the look and feel, and throw up some content. The hard part is attracting people to your new little flag in the sand. Hey, we majored in Computer Science, not Marketing. But there is hope: one hour of tips, tricks, and general how-to about promoting your site using programming, power toys, and other technical prowess. Our discussion will include ways to attract and appeal to search engine spiders using better tools that are freely available and better code that doesn't include learning new languages or frameworks.

Previous Sessions

Hampton Roads, Virginia | MADExpo 2012 developer's conference | June 2012 | Event Site
Toledo, Ohio | North West Ohio .NET User Group | October 2011
Knoxville, Tennessee | CodeStock 2011 developer's conference | June 2011 | Event Site
Nashville, Tennessee | DevLink Technical Conference | August 2010 | SpeakerRate | Event Site

Going for Speed: Testing against Performance Expectations

Unit Testing has settled into the mainstream. As developers, we write code that checks code, ensuring that the outcome matches some expected result. But, are we really? As end-users (which includes each one of us from time to time), when we ask a question, we don't just expect our answer to be right, we expect it to be right now. So as developers, why are we only validating for accuracy? Why aren't we going for speed? During this session we'll discuss meeting the performance needs of an application, including developing a performance specification, measuring application performance from stand-alone testing through unit testing, using tools ranging from Team Foundation Server to the command line, and asserting on these measurements to ensure that all expectations are met. Your application does "right." Let's focus on "right now."

Previous Sessions

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | Pittsburgh Tech Fest | June 2012 | Event Site
Louisville, Kentucky | CodePaLOUsa | March 2012 | Event Site
Grand Rapids, Michigan | West Michigan .NET Users Group | September 2011 | Event Site
Dayton, Ohio | Dayton .NET Developers Group | March 2011 | SpeakerRate
Sandusky, Ohio | CodeMash 2.0.1.1 | January 2011 | SpeakerRate | Event Site
Grand Rapids, Michigan | Grand Rapids Day of .NET | October 2010 | SpeakerRate | Event Site
Cincinnati, Ohio | CINNUG Software Quality Fire Starter | October 2010 | SpeakerRate
Nashville, Tennessee | DevLink Technical Conference | August 2010 | SpeakerRate | Event Site

XCopy is Dead: .NET Deployment Strategies that Work

Back in 1995, when we first started deploying web sites, the copy command was enough. Our web sites only consisted of a static HTML file and a few graphics of animated lava lamps. But our systems are more complex now; instead of a dozen files being uploaded through FTP to a single web server, we have hundreds of files spread across multiple load-balanced web servers, dozens of applications interwoven in a tiered server architecture, and an expectation that it can be deployed error-free without impacting our stringent SLAs. When a tool is no longer sufficient to perform the task at hand, it is time to find a better tool. XCopy is dead; it is time for strategies that work.

Previous Sessions

Knoxville, Tennessee | CodeStock 2012 developer's conference | June 2012 | Event Site
Chattanooga, Tennessee | DevLink 2011 Technical Conference | August 2011 | Event Site

Serious Business with node.js: Module Development

JavaScript has left the browser and is prowling on the server. No longer just for image rollovers and AJAX, Node.js has given JavaScript a new resurgence as a server-side language with a platform for creating lightweight networked applications. In this session, we will move beyond Node’s base web servers and Twitter applications, and into module development: those small, reusable components that are the foundation for every business application on every platform. Learn how to create a module within Node.js, how to test your module and validate functionality, and how to get your creation distributed into the wild.

Previous Sessions

Hampton Roads, Virginia | MADExpo 2012 developer's conference | June 2012 | Event Site
Knoxville, Tennessee | CodeStock 2012 developer's conference | June 2012 | Event Site

Serious Business with node.js: TDD for node

If you don’t test it, how do you know it works? Over the past few years, we have been compelled to write unit and integration tests for our applications--code that validates code--and it is these tests that change a one-off tool into a well-architected, robust, business-ready application. Yet, every new framework requires a new testing framework, so in this session, we will discuss testing frameworks for node.js. You will walk away with a solid understanding of how to write tests against your node.js applications and modules, leading to confidence that your work is business-ready.

Serious Business with OrchardCMS: Module Development

So, you need a Content Management System on the .NET framework. While your business might spend wheelbarrows of money on a platform that is powerful and extensible, your personal site would abandon extensibility for a free, open-source solution. But what if we had an option that was free and powerful and extensible? We do: OrchardCMS. Since we already know that Orchard is free, in this session we will discuss the power of Orchard’s CMS engine. You will learn how to build new modules for the Orchard platform, allowing you to extend functionality as you see fit to meet the needs of your site, your business, and customers.

Your Spark Razored my NHaml: A Comparison of Popular ASP.NET MVC View Engines

If you've worked with ASP.NET MVC, you've likely worked with the WebFormsViewEngine, and have felt like you've stepped back 10 years into Classic ASP 3.0. But one of the powers of ASP.NET MVC is its flexibility to use other View Engines, allowing you to to keep the same Model and Controller while using code in your Views that doesn't bring back scary memories of COM. Spark, Razor, and NHaml are all View Engines that have each made a statement in ASP.NET MVC. Let's see what they are all about, how they compare, and how they stack up to the WebForms engine.

Previous Sessions

Indianapolis, Indiana | Indianapolis .NET Developer's Association | May 2012
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | Pittsburgh .NET Users Group | April 2012 | SpeakerRate | Event Site
Findlay, Ohio | Findlay Area .NET User Group | November 2011
Chattanooga, Tennessee | DevLink 2011 Technical Conference | August 2011 | Event Site

Technorati Tags: ,
Monday, 29 June 2009 23:53:45 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] - Trackback

Filed under: ASP.Net | Dev Basics

When a request occurs for an ASP.NET page, the response is processed through a series of events before being sent to the client browser. These events, known as the ASP.NET Page Life Cycle, are a complicated headache when used improperly, manifesting as odd exceptions, incorrect data, performance issues, and general confusion. It seems simple when reading yet-another-book-on-ASP.NET, but never when applied in the real world. What is covered in a few short pages in many ASP.NET books (and sometimes even just a few short paragraphs), is much more complicated outside of a "Hello, World!" application and inside of the complex demands of the enterprise applications that developers create and maintain in their day-to-day work life. As close to the core as the life cycle is to any ASP.NET web application, the complications and catches behind this system never seems to get wide coverage on study guides or other documentation. But, they should.

Posts in this Series

Part 1: Events of the ASP.NET Page Life Cycle
Part 2: ASP.NET Page & WebControl Event Execution Order
Part 3: Getting Started with ASP.NET Data Binding
Part 4: Wiring Events to your Page

A little help on the Page Life Cycle is never a bad thing. In this series, I will go over the events that make up the ASP.NET Page Life Cycle, as well as some tips and tricks on how to get the most out of this event structure while avoiding the traps and pitfalls. Rather than pursuing broad coverage of the entire ASP.NET Framework, we'll dive deeply into the "small" portion that is the ASP.NET Page Life Cycle.

Events of the ASP.NET Page Life Cycle

I want to start at the beginning. The primary make-up of the Page Life Cycle is the events that process any ASP.NET requests. Unlike the public static void main of a WinForms application, where everything based on methods, the execution of a page request is the execution of these events. These events, which execute in a particular order, handle the entire request, including loading all of the controls, processing all of the form data, handling all user-initiated actions, and rendering the page to the web browser. Knowing the order in which these events are executed, as well as the responsibility of each event in processing your request, is important for developing solid, quality ASP.NET applications.

Start

This is where the page object is instantiated, and where the initial properties of the page are set. Page properties such as Response and Request, UICulture (similar to the UICulture property within a WinForms thread), and the value of IsPostBack are all determined and assigned. No controls are available at this time, so do not try to set the value of that TextBox control, as it doesn't exist, yet. Fortunately, no event handlers can be attached to this event, anyway, so there isn't much you can do to customize this processing or to access that TextBox's value property; "Move along. There is nothing to see here." But, be aware that this event does occur after the Constructor, so if you try to access properties such as IsPostBack prior to the Start event, they have yet to be assigned, and will likely be incorrect.

Page Initialization

During page initialization, the controls are created, initialized, and added to the Page's controls collection. This is the first time that you can access a control by its UniqueID. Do note that all control properties are set to their code values, be it from code-behind or code-in-front, regardless of what may be available in ViewState and Form Post values. Control state has yet to be restored, so ViewState and Form Post values have not yet been pushed to the controls. Finally, Initialization (specifically, PreInit) is the only time that the Theme and Master Page can be programmatically modified.

Page Load

Page Load is where control state is restored. If the request is a PostBack, rather than a new request, all available property values are restored from ViewState and Form Post data and pushed to the applicable controls. Under most scenarios, this is where you're going to get what you need from the Database, such as pulling a value from the query string and loading an item with the matching identity.

Validation

The Validation event only applies to PostBack requests, and only when Validators are present in the control collection. The Validate method is executed for each Validator present, through which the IsValid property is set for each Validator. These IsValid property values are then cascaded up to the Page's IsValid property. Be aware that even if all Validators on the page are disabled, the Validation event will still fire; if a Validator is present, Validate is executed, without regard to any other property. Also, note that the Validation event is a child of the Page's Load event, so it is executed within the Page Load event chain, after Page Load, but prior to PostBack Events and LoadComplete.

PostBack Events

Once Validation is complete (if applicable), all PostBack events are executed, including the OnChange event of a DropDownList and the OnClick event of a command button. Post Back Events are also a child of the Page's Load event, executing after Validation and before LoadComplete.

Render

Finally, once all of the data is processed and Post Back events handled, the Page is rendered within the Web Browser. The Render event consists of saving all control property data to ViewState, processing the Page and each Control into HTML, and writing the HTML to the output stream. This is the last opportunity to modify the HTML output.

Remembering the Order

If you are having trouble remembering the order, instead try and remember this simple mnemonic: SILVER; Start, Initialize, Load, Validation, Events, Render.

If you are doing a lot of ASP.NET programming, or anticipate that you will be in the near future, try to commit to memory the order of each of these events, and their scope of influence. Understanding these basic fundamentals of the ASP.NET Page Life Cycle will help ensure that you are executing your custom code at the right time, and in the right order, rather than stepping on yourself by conflicting with the core functionality.

Now that we know the order of execution on Page Events, what is the order of the Controls? Does Page.Load execute before Control.Load? How about the order of sibling controls? What is the order of myTextBox1.TextChanged versus myTextBox2.TextChanged? Also, what are some things to look out for? As this series continues, we will discuss the details of event execution order within the ASP.NET Page Life Cycle, as well as some tips, trick, and traps when developing ASP.NET applications.

Monday, 22 June 2009 23:53:57 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] - Trackback

Filed under: ASP.Net | Events | Speaking

Next month, I will be speaking at CodeStock, a developer conference in Knoxville, Tennessee, held June 26-27. We will be discussing the ASP.NET Page Life Cycle, to help get over the fears and troubles with validation, event handing, data binding, and the conflicts between page load and page initialization.

Dev Basics: The ASP.NET Page Life Cycle

Jay Harris / Session Level: 100
When a request occurs for an ASP.NET page, the response is processed through a series of events before being sent to the client browser. These events, known as the Page Life Cycle, are a complicated headache when used improperly, manifesting as odd exceptions, incorrect data, performance issues, and general confusion. It seems simple when reading yet-another-book-on-ASP.NET, but never when applied in the real world. In this session, we decompose this mess, and turn the Life Cycle into an effective and productive tool. No ASP.NET MVC, no Dynamic Data, no MonoRail, no technologies of tomorrow, just the basics of ASP.NET, using the tools we have available in the office, today.

It's a long drive from Michigan to Knoxville, but the conference is worth the trip (the first of two Tennessee conferences I will be attending this year). A few other local speakers will be making the trip to Knoxville, as well. Check out the full session list for more information, and while you are at it, register for the event if you haven't already done so; the cost is only $25 if you sign up before the end of May. I was there last year for the first CodeStock, and I had a great time; I'm excited about this years event, not only because I am speaking, but to see what other new things that people are talking about, catch up with friends, and to meet new people in the community.

I hope to see you there.

Technorati Tags: ,,
Monday, 18 May 2009 09:27:01 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] - Trackback

Filed under: Blogging | SEO

You may have heard of Robots.txt. Or, you may have seen requests for /Robots.txt in your web traffic logs, and if the file doesn't exist, a related HTTP 404. But what is this Robot file, and what does it do?

Introduction to Robots.txt

When on a web server, Robots.txt is a file that directs Robots (a.k.a. Spiders or Web Crawlers) on which files and directories to ignore when indexing a site. The file is located on the root directory of the domain, and is typically used to hide areas of a site from search engine indexing, such as to keep a page off of Google's radar (such as my DasBlog login page) or if a page or image is not relevant to the traditional content of a site (maybe a mockup page for a CSS demo contains content about puppies, and you don't want to mislead potential audience). Robots request this file prior to indexing your site, and its absence indicates that the robot is free to index the entire domain. Also, note that each sub-domain uses a unique Robots.txt. When a spider is indexing msdn.microsoft.com, it won't look for the file on www.microsoft.com; MSDN will need its own copy of Robots.txt.

How do I make a Robots.txt?

Robots.txt is a simple text file. You can create it in Notepad, Word, Emacs, DOS Edit, or your favorite text editor. Also, the file belongs in the root of the domain on your web server.

Allow all robots to access everything:

The most basic file will be to authorize all robots to index the entire site. The asterisk [*] for User Agent indicates that the rule applies to all robots, and by leaving the value of Disallow blank rather than including a path, it effectively disallows nothing and allows everything.

# Allow all robots to access everything
User-agent: *
Disallow:

Block all robots from accessing anything:

Conversely, with only one more character, we can invert the entire file and block everything. By setting Disallow to a root slash, every file and directory stemming from the root (in other words, the entire site) will be blocked from robot indexing.

# Block all robots from accessing anything
User-agent: *
Disallow: /

Allow all robots to index everything except scripts, logs, images, and that CSS demo on Puppies:

Disallow is a partial-match string; setting Disallow to "image" would match both /images/ and /imageHtmlTagDemo.html. Disallow can also be included multiple times with different values to disallow a robot from multiple files and directories.

# Block all robots from accessing scripts, logs,
#    images, and that CSS demo on Puppies
User-agent: *
Disallow: /images/
Disallow: /logs/
Disallow: /scripts/
Disallow: /demos/cssDemo/puppies.html

Block all robots from accessing anything, except Google, which is only blocked from images:

Just as a browser has a user agent, so does a robot. For example, "Googlebot/2.1 (http://www.google.com/bot.html)", is one of the user agents for Google's indexer. Like Disallow, the User-agent value in Robots.txt is a partial-match string, so simply setting the value to "Googlebot" is sufficient for a match. Also, the User-agent and Disallow entries cascade, with the most specific User Agent setting is the one that is recognized.

# Block all robots from accessing anything,
#    except Google, which is only blocked from images
User-agent: *
Disallow: /
User-agent: Googlebot
Disallow: /images/

Shortcomings of Robots.txt

Similar to the Code of the Order of the Brethren, Robots.txt "is more what you'd call 'guidelines' than actual rules." Robots.txt is not a standardized protocol, nor is it a requirement. Only the "honorable" robots such as the Google or Yahoo search spiders adhere to the file's instructions; other less-honorable bots, such as a spam spider searching for email addresses, largely ignore the file.

Also, do not use the file for access control. Robots.txt is just a suggestion for search indexing, and will by no means block requests to a disallowed directory of file. These disallowed URLs are still freely available to anyone on the web. Additionally, the contents of this file can be used to against you, as it the items you place in it may indicate areas of the site that are intended to be secret or private; this information could be used to prioritize candidates for a malicious attack with disallowed pages being the first places to target.

Finally, this file must be located in the root of the domain: www.mydomain.com/robots.txt. If your site is in a sub-folder from the domain, such as www.mydomain.com/~username/, the file must still be on the root of the domain, and you may need to speak with your webmaster to get your modifications added to the file.

Other Resources:

Technorati Tags: ,
Friday, 15 May 2009 09:31:37 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1] - Trackback