I recently attended the inaugural meetup of the Cambridge Alexa Developers Group held at Amazon’s Cambridge office. The group was set up by Bob Harris and Rich Merrett, who both gave talks on building Alexa skills and SSML.
David Low, Amazon’s Head of Solutions Architects, also gave a talk about how to best create a skill by working out its user value:
One particlarly interesting thing covered was a formula for working out whether a skill will be a “killer skill”:
The higher the output of this formula, the higher the likelihood that a skill will be succesful.
While this talk wasn’t recorded, he has given a similar talk before that was.
Last week I attended NDC London. It’s not the first time that I’ve been, but it is the first time I’ve done the workshops that run alongside the main conference.
The remaining three days of the conference was in the form of talks. Like I’ve done before, I sketchnoted many of the sessions that I attended.
What Is Programming Anyway?
The Power Of Technical Decisions
You Build It, You Run It
An Introduction To Kotlin
Composite UIs: The Microservices Last Mile
Designing For Speech
Jewelbots: How To Get More Girls Coding
Who Needs Dashboards?
Pilot Decision Management
A Developer’s Guide To Machine Learning
CSP XXP STS PKP CAA ETC…
Web Apps Can’t Do That, Can They?
These are the other talks I attended but didn’t sketchnote:
C# 7.1 and 7.2: The Releases You Didn’t Know You Had
The Psychology Of Social Engineering
The Modern Cloud
The Hello World Show Live
Tips And Tricks With Azure
Why I’m Not Leaving .Net
I recently attended DDD North 7 in Bradford. I’ve been wanting to take up sketchnoting for a while now, but have never gotten round to doing it, so when Ian Johnson (go check out his sketchnotes - they are great) prompted me to take my sketchbook and pens with me, I reluctantly obliged. I’m so glad I did though as I really enjoyed doing them, and I feel it had the effect of me being able to recall much more of the content of each talk. I tweeted the sketchnotes after each session and got a great response from both the speakers and attendees.
Here are the sketchnotes I did during the day.
Microservices: What I’ve Learned After A Year Of Building A System
Spot The Difference: Automating Visual Regression Testing
Married To The Mob (Programming)
How To Parse A File
Alexa, Open Sneezaroo…
by Zinat Wali Twitter
If you do any kind of globalisation in your applications, you will probably already be familiar with the
Thread.CurrentUICulture properties that can be used to set a culture on the thread so that .Net knows to load the correct resources and to format numbers and dates properly.
A big downside to using approach this is that the culture is only set on the current thread, meaning that any new threads created will be using the default culture for the application (which is tied to the regional settings of the operation system). This wasn’t too much of a problem years ago when multi-threading was not used widely, but in modern application development it is virtually impossible to avoid using multiple threads (e.g. Task Parallel Library), especially when trying to make use of modern multi-core hardware. You would have to manually set the culture when spawning new threads to ensure that the correct culture was being used - a real pain and a common cause of bugs.
.Net 4.5 comes to the rescue with the introduction of two new properties:
A culture can be set using properties that will then be used for all threads in the whole application domain, meaning that you can set the correct culture at application start up and all threads will use that culture. By default, these properties are set to null meaning that the pre-4.5 behaviour will still hold and that the system culture will be used by default.
RedGate recently announced that from the next version of Reflector (v7), they will charge $35 for a licence. Since the announcement a few weeks ago, there has been quite a backlash against the decision from the .Net community, mainly because RedGate have put a time-bomb in the currently-free version so that it will expire at the end of May 2011. In response to this announcement, several alternatives to Reflector have surfaced - some free, some commercial. The list below outlines all of the alternatives, some of which have been around for many years.
JetBrains ReSharper (commercial + free)
Within a day of the announcement, JetBrains put out a teaser suggesting that a decompiler was in the works. Two weeks later, they announced that the next version of ReSharper will have an integrated decompiler akin to reflector, along with a free standalone version to be released later in the year.
This tool comes bundled with the Windows SDK Tools (that get installed as part of Visual Studio). It is purely an IL disassembler, and so cannot decompile to C#.
MonoDevelop Assembly Browser (free)
Released for the first time in version 2.0 of MonoDevelop (currently at v2.4.2).
This tool has been around for a while, but is not often mentioned. It is not as polished as Reflector and does not support never versions of .Net, but has some nice features not seen anywhere else. Once such feature is to rename the decompiled variables within the tool to give them a more meaningful name.
Spices .Net Decompiler (commercial)
As well as decompiling to IL, C#, J#, C++ and Delphi.Net, this tool has a feature to build code flow diagrams from the decompiled source to show the execution flow.
This is s decompiler combined with an obfuscator, language translator and refactoring tool that integrates with Visual Studio.
Keep Decompiling Free
This website popped up recently with nothing more than a teaser to get more information when it is available.
RedGate Reflector (commercial)
Of course, there is still the current king of them all, albeit in a now charged-for format. Still well worth the $35.
Which of these will turn out to be the best/most successful to take Reflector’s throne is yet to play out, but there seems to be a healthy interest from both the community and commercial aspects in making a replacement.
I am currently learning F# and am starting to amass a selection of useful links. I though it would be handy to collate them all in the one place:
C# and F# Equivalents
I have ReSharper installed and think it is a great tool for productivity, but occasionally I find it useful to temporarily disable it to speed up Visual Studio (especially so on my old, slow laptop). This is achieved in two different ways, depending on the version of ReSharper.
In versions prior to version 5, ReSharper appears in the
Add-in Manager dialog, accessed via the
Tools menu. Using this dialog, you can uncheck the ReSharper add-in which will suspend it (the menu will still be visible, but its functionality will be disabled).
Checking it again will re-enable it. Both of these actions can be performed without restarting Visual Studio.
In version 5, ReSharper no longer appears in the add-ins dialog. At first glance, I though the ability to disable ReSharper was no longer available. As it turns out, it is now part of ReSharper itself and is accessed via the
Tools -> Options -> ReSharper -> General dialog. Clicking the suspend button will suspend ReSharper and disable its functionality. Once suspended, clicking the resume button will re-enable it.
This applies to all versions of Visual Studio - the difference is based on the version of ReSharper only.
A few years ago, I posted about how to extract the contents of an MSI file without having to go through the process of installing it. The tool used to do this was called Less MSIerables. This tool does do the job, but the UI is a bit clunky to use, it has a few bugs, and occasionally fails to extract the contents of a file. On top of this, it looks like this tool is not actively developed (it was last updated in 2005), so I recently started to look for an alternative.
It turns out that Microsoft provide this functionality as part of MSIExec that comes as part of the Windows installer. To extract the contents of any MSI file, simply run the following:
This will extract the complete contents of the MSI file to the specified directory.
Following on from my last post on the MDSN Low Bandwidth View, Scott Hanselman recently tweeted about the beta version of MDSN Lightweight View.
In a similar way to adding
(loband) before the
.aspx part of the url, putting
(lightweight) before the
.aspx part of the url will use the new lightweight view of MSDN, meaning a much neater and streamlined version.
In addition, Scott has previously posted about the other modes of MSDN:
|-||The normal MSDN view||Example|
|(loband)||A minimal view, focussed on speed||Example|
|(lightweight)||A faster lightweight view, including quick links to switch between languages and .Net framework versions||Example|
|(pda)||Aimed at PDAs and phones. Turns off the tree and allows a 100% width||Example|
|(robot)||Optimised for search engines||Example|
|(printer)||A printable version||Example|
|(ide)||Used when viewing inside the IDE. Adds send and give feedback links||Example|
Note that the dev10ide view Scott mentions seems to have been removed, and that the lightweight view is currently in beta, so may be liable to change.
Several months ago, I read a tip about passing an extra parameter on the url to MSDN documentation to put it into “low bandwidth” mode. I remember doing it at the time, but almost immediately forgot the url switch. That was until last week when I read Eric Nelson’s post on how to do it.
The trick is to put
(loband) before the
.aspx part of the url. For example, the low bandwidth version of
Once you have accessed it, you can persist it by clicking on the “Persist low bandwidth view” link.
Since Eric wrote his post, it seems that a “Switch on low bandwidth view” link has been added into the normal MSDN pages to enable it to be switched on without hacking around with the url.