Archive for the ‘Agile’ Category

Programmers: What’s on your bookshelf?

February 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Here are programming books I really recommend. Most of these are technology agnostic and have value regardless of what language and technology you use:

1. Practice

If I had to pick one book that defines the practice of programming it would be Code Complete. It’s approaching 18 years in publication now but still has timeless advice (A second edition was published on the 10 year anniversary). For example, there’s a great section on Formal Code Inspections, something I believe should be utilized for all critical sections of code at least.

Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction, 2nd edition
by Steve McConnell

2. Standards

This book discusses how to build your own framework, but I would say the advice applies to any object-oriented (or object-based) system design. It’s really easy to read, and I highly recommend it for everyone, particularly .NET developers. For example, how do you handle errors? Do you return error codes or raise exceptions? It’s in here. You’ll also gain insight into why certain decisions were made when designing the .NET Framework itself. It too is in its second edition.

Framework Design Guidelines: Conventions, Idioms, and Patterns for Reusable .NET Libraries (2nd Edition)
by Krzysztof Cwalina and Brad Abrams

3. Architecture & Design

This is known as the book by the ‘gang of four’. It’s a big hit and everyone should read it and become familiar with these patterns. I bet you’re probably using the patterns even if you don’t know them by name – good to learn the lingo so you can communicate with team members. There’s also another book that covers the same patterns with a bit more color – I’ve used that one to drive study groups – I’ll list it below as an alternate.

Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software
by Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, John Vlissides

Head First Design Patterns
by Elisabeth Freeman, Eric Freeman, Bert Bates, Kathy Sierra, Elisabeth Robson

Domain-Driven Design: Tackling Complexity in the Heart of Software
by Eric Evans

And a few architecture books:

Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture
by Martin Fowler

Enterprise Integration Patterns: Designing, Building, and Deploying Messaging Solutions
by Gregor Hohpe, Bobby Woolf

4. Algorithms

I got to tell you, I’m always on the lookout for good algorithm books, not the college level kind that someone new to programming finds daunting, but something that can explain in simple terms and illustrations, the problem space, solution, AND practical application. I can recommend the one I started with, many moons ago: Ready-to-Run Visual Basic Algorithms. Don’t let the VB name fool you. It covers all the basics from trees to hashing to Recursive Sierpinski Curves. I think the book’s now out of print. If you code gurus recommend something current, hit me up!

Ready-to-Run Visual Basic Algorithms, Second Edition
by Rod Stephens

5. TDD

If I remember correctly you won’t find this topic in Code Complete, so another resource is needed. I’ve led a study group, chapter by chapter through Roy’s The Art of Unit Testing. More and more resources are appearing as this topic gains momentum.

The Art of Unit Testing, with examples in .NET
by Roy Osherove

6. Agile

Well I’ll list the one I’ve read which introduced me to a bunch of concepts and processes around agile software development. Of course there’s also a very popular book by Martin Fowler on refactoring. I must admit, I’ve never read it cover to cover, but I’ll include it based on its fame (watch for ‘bad smells’ in your code!).

Agile Software Development: The Cooperative Game (2nd Edition)
by Alistair Cockburn

Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code
by Martin Fowler, Kent Beck, John Brant, William Opdyke, Don Roberts

See also this list of the top Agile books.

7. Database

Microsoft SQL Server ?2008 Internals
by Kalen Delaney, Paul S. Randal, Kimberly L. Tripp, Conor Cunningham, Adam Machanic

How about you? What do you recommend?


Continuous Integration, without exception!

May 19, 2011 Leave a comment

I am a firm believer in Continuous Integration.  And by that I mean every Solution/Project should be built continually on a build server, automatically – without exception.  In the old days I remember having to step into maintenance on a project new to me, only to find the version of the app in source code control would not compile.  How frustrating, and time-consuming.  Thanks to continuous integration, those days are gone!

If it’s the first time you’re doing this, obviously it will require an investment of time.  You need to set up a build server (VM is perfect), install build tools on it, and then create scripts/catalogue your projects.  Once you’ve crossed this hurdle, adding in new projects as you go along is a piece of cake.  It’s a habit worth forming.  Your dev team will thank you for the automatic emails indicating what source was changed, by whom, and if the build succeeded or failed.  The immediacy of this notification means the dev who made the change can quickly make the correction as the subject is fresh in her mind.

Compiling code is just the first step.  You can automatically do a bunch of other things:

  • Build your database from scratch using the source files for each object (e.g. tables, indexes, stored procedures); The database features in Visual Studio are great for this.
  • Run tests including unit tests and integration tests
  • Deploy binaries / runtime to a test area

I hope to blog on all those points in later posts.  For an example of just how much you can do in a script run continuously, see this great blog post on Automated Testing with BizTalk Server. The point is you can and should do the entire enchilada if not on every build, at least daily.  It’s a mundane and repeatable task so why not let the machine do it for you?  It’s all about quality and agility.  We’re having to code changes at warp speed, and this will help maintain our professionalism.

So please take my advice and invest the time to set up an automatic build using your favourite tool (TFS, CruiseControl.NET, etc.).


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