Monthly Archives: October 2003

Ken Getz is a pain in the ass!

There I said it. I realize this is not the nicest thing to say about someone who’s been generous enough to invite me into his home this coming weekend, but I felt I had to get it out before I saw him in person.

In truth, Ken is a pain in my ass because I (well, actually, my editors) asked him to be and he was nice enough to agree to do it. He’s one of the technical reviewers for my book, and his comments have caused me no end of grief because: a) he feels free to comment at length about the shortcomings of my writing, and b) he’s usually pretty on the money. The way I’ve been working is to edit a chapter first and then look at the comments the reviewers had about it. I’m pretty much guaranteed that if I skim over some weak passage and weasel by with the thought “Hmmm. I’m not sure that’s such a good passage. Ah, well, I’m sure it’s OK…”, then Ken’s going to have a comment calling me out on it. Very valuable stuff, but I tell you: after ten or so chapters of it, I’ve started to steel myself before flipping to his comments. I’m going to be very grateful for all his insight… when I’m done editing the damn book.

(And in saying all this, I am not meaning to slight any of the other reviewers, all of whom have been providing insightful and invaluable comments of their own. I just call Ken out here because he seems to have the knack for writing comments that particularly bedevil me.)

As a side note, you’ll notice that I haven’t been posting a lot of happy, chatty entries about getting this book finished, the way, say, ChrisAn has about getting his presentation done for the PDC. I’m not sure what Chris has been taking, but I missed it when they handed out the happy pills. Me, I’m just slogging it out as best I can. Maybe I need a life-size Chris Sells looking over my shoulder…

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you…

I’m coming up against a very hard deadline for my language reference book, so I’ve been having to dedicate myself almost full-time to it this week and next. One of the things that I’ve been doing is going through all the comments from people who were nice enough to agree to be technical reviewers for some part of the book. It has been a very interesting experience.

Before I get to that, though, I will add that one thing that’s surprised me is that number of people around work who, unprompted, asked if I needed any more technical reviewers for the book. I’ve been asked to do technical reviews for a few books and while it was an interesting experience, it’s not necessarily something that I’d go out volunteering for. Not to put too fine a point on it but after thirty or forty pages of close technical reviewing, even the most interesting book makes my eyes swim. (Then again, I usually eschew reading technical books in favor of just fiddling with a program, a point whose irony is not lost on me.)

As far as the technical reviews I’ve gotten, though, one thing that’s been surprising is how much reading someone else’s technical reviews can give you a read on their personality. I guess I thought a technical review was a technical review was a technical review, but these really run the gamut. On one end of the spectrum, one reviewer has been a super stickler on making sure that all my code samples and basic facts are exactly right. (Which has been great… Uh, how many bytes does a Double take up again?) On the other end of the spectrum, another reviewer glosses over the little mistakes and instead likes to insert long comments taking issue with bigger picture questions about how and when I talk about one topic or another. (Equally great.) And all of the reviewers have a distinct style and set of concerns. Which makes sense if you think about it, I guess, but I hadn’t.

Anyway, my book was sent out for review in chunks, so I’m about to make a transition from one set of reviewers to another. I’m going to kind of miss the reviewers who didn’t have the time to review this next chunk of the book. I feel like they’re dropping out just as we were getting to know each other…

Hiccup… Hiccup…

Sorry for those of you trying to unsuccessfully get through to Panopticon Central yesterday… Something screwy happened with my network. The server appeared to be running just fine, but it couldn’t see anything else on the LAN and the LAN couldn’t see it. So, of course, the WAN couldn’t see it either… Rebooting the server didn’t help, but rebooting the hub and the router did, so who knows?

Names changed to protect… somebody.

I’m reviewing VB runtime functions as I work on my book and I noticed that the VbTypeName function has a very odd parameter name:

Public Function VbTypeName(ByVal UrtName As String) As String

Huh? What’s that “Urt” thing? That’s just one of the five hundred names that was attached to what eventually became the Common Language Runtime (or CLR for short). URT stood for “Universal RunTime.”

As I think I mentioned when I was talking about codenames recently, the one thing you can count on at Microsoft is that there will be absolutely no consistency or constancy to names over time. I have no idea why that is, but it just seems to be that way.

Lies, damn lies, and…

Scoble notes the fact that the #1 download on MSDN is “Code Samples for Visual Basic 6.0” and comments that “there are still a lot of people coding on old Visual Basic.” This is undoubtedly true and something worth keeping in mind, but what’s interesting is that I’ve also seen this fact used by some of the VFred crowd as “proof” of our failure in getting people to move from Visual Basic 6.0. Given the sea change that was .NET, migration is undoubtedly going to be a long-term process but I noted with interest that all but one of the rest of the entries were .NET related and several of them were specifically about Visual Basic .NET. I think we’re near the tipping point, if we’re not already past it.

Of course, the reality is that the page doesn’t contain numbers, so it’s hard to know whether/how much all the .NET content combined overshadows the VB6 code samples, so take it for what it’s worth…

Weird connections

Joel‘s starting a technical book club and his first book is Henry Petrosky’s Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design. I haven’t read the book, but I have read his earlier Remaking the World: Adventures in Engineering, which I thought was very good. Like many technical people, I suspect, I’m facinated by engineering and scientific history.

The weird part of it all is that I have some glancing connections to Petrosky – he’s an engineering professor at Duke University, where both of my parents worked for many years (and one still does). I also went to high school school with his children, although neither was in my particular class (one was older, one was younger). And the Petrosky’s lived about three blocks from the house where I spent most of my formative years. I used to ride by their house all the time on my bike.

All of which means absolutely nothing, except that it’s one of those weird “hey, I have some completely meaningless connection to that person” things. (Not as weird, though, as when I opened the New York Times one day and found that a classmate of mine who I sort-of, not-really knew from college had won the Pulitzer prize for her book. Makes you wonder what you’ve been doing with your life…)

C Octothorpe?

The “A Word A Day” mailing list reminded me of something one of the guys I used to work with would joke about when the C# team first came up with their name. The sharp symbol goes by many names, the strangest of which has to be “octothorpe.” (Just click on the link and search for “octo” to find the entry.)

I realize that I’m hardly the first person to mention this, but I’d never seen such an exhaustive discussion of the etymology of the word. Or a list of all the other names that # goes by. C hak? C gridlet? C square?

PNL10: The Future of .NET Languages

I will put in one plug, though. I’m going to be participating on a panel on Thursday at the PDC entitled “The Future of .NET Languages.” Should be a very interesting discussion, I hope to see everyone who’s attending the PDC there! You can even submit questions and check out the bios of the various panel members (including me). Please do submit some questions!