“Requirements rarely lie on the surface.  Normally, they’re buried deep beneath layers of assumptions, misconceptions, and politics.”

The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master
By Andrew Hunt, David Thomas

remote work, software development, tips

The Beauty and Power of Remote Work

I am not a 100% remote worker but all my remote software development consulting is 100% – remote.  Communication is the key to having a good relationship with a client and having great results. If you can only send a message saying that you will look at something it is better than silence.  Communicating with yourself about realistic deadlines will help yourself mange your schedule helping to prevent burn-out.  Remote software development is a combination of the beauty and power of its discipline.

The beauty of remote work is the comfort of remote work: to be able to relax at home (or out-and-about) and get a few hours of work in is a great feeling.  I also like to visit various coffee shops, public libraries, or other places of free WiFi.  Being stuck in an office all the time can become a drag and hurt productivity. It has been in my experience that the developers typically draw the short straw for a nice office space or cube.  Keeping a fresh and interesting environment will help keep a developer happy!

The power of remote work is simple; work when you want to. I can honestly say that a lot of my best ideas usually happen somewhere unexpected.  I feel software development is a form of art and those ideas sometimes hit you when you are driving, taking a shower, sleeping, and not something that is entirely enforceable.  There are times when you have to make quick decisions, but when you can take the time to think and analyze the situation – it will be a far better solution.  There are deadlines to be maintained – there is a balance between those two forces.  It is powerful and stressful to maintain your own work schedule and deadlines, but it is also liberating.

Where are we now?
Where are we going?

I believe in the next 50 years or so the prominence of remote work will only grow. We will look back on this time and have a hard time grasping the concept… so… we drove everywhere and wasted time on commuting when you had the ability to work from home???

It is early in the remote work game… we’ve come a long way and we have a long way to go. It’s adoption has often been met with fear and reluctance unfortunately.

Tips for Remote Software Development

  • Log your time worked in software that will bill your client http://invoice.zoho.com is great
  • Log your time immediately after working or you will forget see above
  • Track the tasks you are assigned see above
  • Write great comments and keep a change log http://www.keepachangelog.com
  • Clear, concise
  • Link to tasks, if possible, the TFS address, SifterApp, etc
  • Don’t be afraid to say NO don’t over commit
  • Invoice monthly or a frequency and stick to it – Sometimes the client determines this
  • Manage Burn-out be honest with yourself it is a real thing

Sane Database Warehousing

Database warehousing is a critical tool in the skill set of a developer. The ability to take normalized data and store it in a non-normalized dataset can increase loading times, reduce calculations and generate a large ROI. Large datasets will benefit dramatically from a warehouse of commonly/frequently accessed data facts.


Extract, Transform, Load ETL is the process to take normalized (usually) data into a faster data access view or tallied (summated) data view. In the Microsoft world there are a few ways to achieve this goal. T-SQL as a scheduled job can easy handle the simple data tasks. SQL Server Integration Services SSIS is also a great tool for connecting SQL Servers and diverse data systems together. SSIS is great when working with systems that are not SQL Server based. Which one is better? It depends on the need and the application.

Simple T-SQL Warehousing

Using SQL 2005 or later allows the using of the pivot command when querying data. Pivot Tables can simplify a lot of reporting and calculations (which take time). A very simple example of would be the following SQL Statement:

-- Example Table
CREATE TABLE [dbo].[employee_items](
[id] [int] IDENTITY(1,1) NOT NULL,
[employee_id] [int] NOT NULL,
[item] [varchar](10) NOT NULL,
[count] [int] NOT NULL,
[id] ASC

-- Pivoted Data
SELECT Employee_id, [100], [200], [300]
INTO employee_items_warehouse
SELECT employee_id, item, count
FROM Employee_items) AS SourceTable
FOR item IN ([100], [200], [300])
) AS PivotTable

This is not the perfect example but should give you an idea of what you can do to manipulate the data to create a warehouse. You wouldn’t want to simply do an insert every time you run the process; you would want to do updates / inserts to get the best result. The data velocity (how fast the data changes) or the need of the data updating of the pivot table data can be changed would have an effect on the process itself.

SQL Server Integration Services

SSIS is much more than Pivot (though it can pivot data easily) and is great for combining data from multiple system into one data warehouse. The catch with SSIS and SQL Server is the versions of Business Intelligence Development Studio BIDS must match the SQL Server the SSIS Package is running on. A SSIS Package for SQL Server 2005 must be created in BIDS 2005. SQL Server 2008 must be created in BIDS 2008 and so on.

The amount of tasks/data manipulated/script tasks you can do in SSIS is quite staggering. I only wanted to mention SSIS since in today’s data warehousing world it is one of the best tools on the market.

I will dive more deeply into the world of SSIS in a later post.


Why I love and hate JavaScript

2009.03.16 OaD #75 | Consumed by code

JavaScript is a powerful client side scripting language.  It allows developers to quickly add/remove functionality.  It can be dropped in or generated from code.  In WEB 2.0, JavaScript is the backbone of creating rich user environments.  It is quite the catch 22.  Oh how I love to hate and hate to love JavaScript.

JavaScript can pass some rudimentary tasks to the client so, as developers know, this can save processing cycles.  Sometimes it can actually add processing cycles, so it definitely depends.  Saving processing time allows application to run faster for the most part.  You don’t have to wait for a complete page cycle to do tasks ala 1998.  Basically, users are not patient nor should they be patient.  They are used to the Desktop world.  I feel JavaScript helps bridge that gap for users; sometime developers/designers go overboard.

Ease of Use

Javascript is easy to use.  Compatible with any web programming language: Classic ASP, .NET, PHP, Ruby, JSP.  It integrates easily.  It is fairly lightweight and the syntax is not mind-blowing.

It is a little to easy to use and users can directly access things in your page.  It gives the user more control than what they know.  Look you can easily change the background of any page in the address bar.

javascript:document.bgColor = ‘#000000’;void(0);
^ Paste that into the address bar and press enter -> changes the background

This only touches the surface of what JavaScript can do.  It can get into your web app and change things around.  I use it for quick fixes on the fly or to try different things.  You can’t rely on JavaScript it will only cause you pain.  Can you trust the DOM?  No.

JavaScript is an interesting topic still it was once vogue, faded out, and then came back (with velocity).  I think at one point in JavaScript’s history it was somewhat confused for Java, but I don’t think that is currently valid.  There are so many great JavaScript libraries out there that enhance the UI and the total web experience.

They are even available from the Google API with no API Key which is an added bonus; unlimited connections to boot.  I don’t think a lot of these effects/plug-ins would be as robust or available if not for JavaScript libraries and the good old Goog.

I really don’t hate JavaScript, but I think it can be overused or used incorrectly (say for validation).  Sure it can help in notifying the end-user of validation issues; it should also be validated on the server side.  Web development is a many layered burrito.


Adding Tooltips to Checkboxlist Items

checkbox-1 The CheckBoxList control in Microsoft ASP .NET 2.0 can be quite limiting in features.  You can set a tooltip for the overall control; we can say “HEY THIS IS A CHECKBOXLIST”, which is great if that somehow helps you.  The true power would be in adding a tooltip to each individual item in the checkboxlist.  It would be nice to databind the field like other ASP .NET 2.0 Controls, but again no such luck.

To add a Tooltip to each individual item you are going to have to loop through the control.  By setting the title attribute to whatever you want will give you the individual control to name each checkbox in the checkboxlist.  This can done be done when pulling items in or on the case of a control firing.  Whatever works for you.

‘ Loop through CheckBoxList and set tooltip to checked if selected
For Each item As ListItem In CheckBoxList1.Items
If item.Selected Then
item.Attributes(“title”) = “CHECKED”
End If

This is really just a quick and dirty way to add tooltips to checkboxlist items.  If you are already pulling in jQuery or some other library I would say use one of the many Tooltip plugins out there.  If you are not using any Javascript libraries this can be a quick way to help achieve a goal.  I’m not sure if this will work in Firefox, but if you are going for crossbrowser definitely check out a Javascript library.