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I’ve been a bit inactive for the last few months. Here’s an update.

New laptop

My old laptop was 2½ years old so I thought it was about time to upgrade to a newer machine. I’ve been happy with Dell, so I got a new XPS M1530 laptop. Here is what I customized it with:

  • 4GB memory
  • 64GB solid state HDD
  • HDMI out
  • Blue-ray drive
  • Wireless N (really fast)

It results in this Windows Experience Index.

BlogEngine.NET

It’s been awhile since the team and I have given any information about the next version of BlogEngine.NET. Truth be told, we haven’t had much time to work on it since the last release back in August. Many bugs have been fixed and more will be during the next weeks. The roadmap has been conservatively updated. We might change it to add more things to it.

Since I got my new laptop I’ve updated BlogEngine.NET to run in both IIS 6 + 7 out-of-the-box. The solution has also been updated to Visual Studio 2008. One of the major things that I will focus on in BlogEngine.NEXT is refactoring and cleaning of the code. We are also working with the Windows Live Writer team to implement support for the newest version that is currently in beta.

Another thing I really want to add is life streaming. The ability to have Facebook updates, Twitter tweets etc. to be listed alongside blog posts in a chronological order. This will bridge the gap between blogging and microblogging in a nice way I think. I’ll soon have something to show here on this blog.

SemanticEngine.NET

Since I published the bits on CodePlex a few months ago, I haven’t had time to do a follow up. I still haven’t time. That’s why I asked for people to help out, but so far no one have volunteered. I’ll probably do some polishing and make an official release around Christmas. Still, if you have the time to help out please drop me a note.

Blogging

I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had the time to blog – or the energy. Time is only one part of blogging. The other part is having something interesting to write about. Normally I get ideas from code that I experiment with or play with at home or at work. Lately, I’ve been so swamped at work that I haven’t had the time to play around with code as I normally do. That is changing now since we have hired some new developers to balance the work load. 

I’ve just upgraded to Visual Studio 2008 (about bloody time!) so I’ll have a lot of experimenting to do and will of course blog about some of that.

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A year ago, I wrote a post about three projects that I thought would be useful for .NET developers but didn’t exist at the time. I thought it would be fun with a follow-up on that post.

1. Silverlight XHTML editor

Rich text editors like FreeTextBox and FCKeditor are extremely difficult to do right, so I wasn’t expecting a Silverlight rich text editor anytime soon. Back then Silverlight was also still in beta. A little while back I noticed that Michael Sync has started a CodePlex project of a Silverlight rich text editor. Way to go Michael!

2. OpenID membership provider for ASP.NET

I’ve really needed a plug ‘n play membership provider that supported OpenID natively. Then came along exactly that, which also is open source and available at Google Code. Good stuff, but it would be cooler if no third-party assemblies where used to make it easier to modify the code. Thumbs up anyway!

3. ASP.NET MonsterID implementation

A MonsterID is a visual image representation of an e-mail address that can be used either as a security measure or as an avatar. Only a few days after I wrote the post, Alexander Schuc wrote his MonsterID HttpHandler. This was so good that we implemented it in BlogEngine.NET 1.2. Now Gravatar supports it natively as well. Good job!

There are still a few projects that I think would be great contributions to .NET developers.

1. OAuth .NET library

The starting-to-get-popular API authentication mechanism, OAuth, would be a great addition to the .NET toolbox. Google and others are soon to support OAuth and we need both the server and client mechanisms. That would make it possible to both send and retrieve data to and from third-parties.

Update: It already exist right here code.google.com/p/devdefined-tools/wiki/OAuth

2. Semantic document writer

The relative new semantic document types such as FOAF and SIOC can be a bit tough to write yourself. They use the RDF XML format which is pretty tough to both read and write without the right tools. I would think a simple library would help democratizing these standard formats and broaden their reach. As an open source project, the library would also quickly adhere to best practices for writing these documents.

Am I missing some non-existing projects?

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I was tag-team wrestled by Keyvan Nayyari and Janko today. They wanted me to take up the challenge of writing about my programming history. Since they are two seriously cool dudes I decided to play along.

How old were you when you started programming?

Eighteen years young.

How did you get started in programming?

Red and white wine. That was my business ten years ago. I ran a small wine import business during college and my wines where so good I drank most of it myself. That’s when I knew I had talent. So I started programming.

What was your first language?

VB 5 or 6 - I don’t remember exactly.

What was the first real program you wrote?

The first version of my Prison Bitch Name Generator, written in VB 6, revolutionized modern English forever. There's an online version of it here made by someone else.

What languages have you used since?

VB.NET, C#, Java, PHP, Action Script, Lingo (this is a weird language) and all web oriented scripting- and mark-up languages.

What was your first professional programming gig?

The Prison Bitch Name Generator never took off commercially so I had to look for other venues. I started a web design business like 3 billion other people did during the IT bubble. My success was limited but I did manage to build about 50 websites and win a design award with one of them (I wasn't the designer but took full credit like the gentleman I am). The first website must have been for a small Norwegian pharmaceutical company located in Oslo if I remember correctly.

If you knew then what you know now, would you have started programming?

Definitely yes. It’s the most gratifying, creative and challenging thing and it makes me very happy every day.

What is the one thing you would tell new developers?

Rule #1. Buy the most expensive pair of Ray-Ban’s you can find. You probably look dorky like the rest of us programmers, but with a pair of Ray-Ban’s you look like a rock start. Don’t fall into the trap that any pair of shades will do no matter the price, and take pride in wearing them 24/7/365. 

Rule #2. When a girl ask what you do for a living, lie to her. Here are some good job titles I've had great success with over the years.

  • Pet detective (girls like animals for some reason)
  • Organic chef (girls like organic food for some reason)
  • Hybrid car designer (girls like the environment for some reason)
  • Bestselling novelist (girls like to read for some reason)

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had … programming?

That’s without a doubt when I learned about the semantic web and the process of teaching myself how to implement the various technologies in ASP.NET. It only became more interesting when I learned how to consume, aggregate and do cool things with semantic technologies on the web.

And with those words I’d like to pass the torch to James Avery, Al Nyveldt and John Dyer.

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Jakob asked me a question this evening: What is the difference between front-end and back-end developers? Not long after I was on my way home and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I’ve never thought much about it before, yet I am convinced there is a difference. Also, I have a feeling that there must be a different answer for each developer in the world.

Let’s start by looking at some stereotypical differences.

Front-end devs don’t unit test

…whereas back-end devs take pride in their unit tests and test environment. In my experience this is definitely true. Front-end code is very difficult to test and those tests are even worse to maintain. It’s a fulltime job. However, you have always been able to separate most logic from code-behind files and other classes into libraries that are testable. Maybe front-end devs just don’t care as much about testability or are they more realistic in how they spend their time?

Back-end devs are more low-level

Threading and memory pointers are not interesting for most front-end developer. Back-end devs on the other hand knows all about it and how to utilize it to create scalable solutions. Front-end devs don’t like operating on such a low level of abstraction and feels the platform should take care of it, so they don’t have to. Otherwise you’ll never get anything done. Some are extraordinary productive on a low level and some are equally productive but higher on the stack. Does this separate front-end from back-end devs?

Front-end devs make more mistakes

Back-end devs don’t just jump into development, but thoroughly sketch out every detail to avoid unforeseen scenarios. Front-end devs do just the opposite – they need to create and they need their endorphins fast. I’ve heard this many times before and I don’t agree. There are just as many ugly pitfalls by rushing development in the front-end as in the back-end and front-end devs knows this. Still, they need their fast track to the endorphins, but does it collide with the quality?

Back-end devs hates the client-side

If there is one thing back-end devs hate more than Cirque du Soleil, it’s JavaScript, stylesheets and HTML. Valid XHTML only makes sense to back-end devs if they have to parse it as XML. Front-end devs spend hours on end to perfect every pixel and even longer to validate their stylesheet and XHTML even though the average user wouldn’t notice. Say cross-browser to a back-end dev and he shakes his head at the stupidity thinking that you could just have made a table design and there wouldn’t be any problems. Is this a way of thinking about quality?

A likely answer

When I was hired by ZYB, my boss Ole Kristensen asked me if I considered myself as a front-end or a back-end developer. I answered that I thought of myself as a back-end dev but my heart was in the front-end. Maybe the answer has nothing to do with technicalities but is as simple as what you love the most.

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I’ve owned this website for quite some years now – even before I started using it for blogging. Before that I mainly used it as a sandbox or playground if you’d like. It ran on Windows Server 2000 in a shared hosting environment and has been really stabile for all those years.

Then about a week ago I got a phone call from my hosting provider Next Level Internet asking me if they could move my plan to a Windows Server 2003 machine instead. It didn’t really mean a lot to me at the time, because of the stability on Windows Server 2000 and because I didn’t use any features that demanded the use of Windows Server 2003. But of course I said yes.

Now, a week later it has become clear just how much faster Windows Server 2003 is compared to its predecessor. It is super fast, has much fewer application restarts and is more efficient in handling memory. Sweet!

Writing this post I realize that I’m excited about a 5 year old piece of software and wonder if I should stop right now so I won’t make a fool of myself. Nah, it’s probably too late for that anyway. I’m looking forward to trying Windows Server 2008 in about five years time. That’s gonna fly.