Thursday, May 31, 2007

Microsoft vs. TestDriven.Net Express

TestDriven.NET is the only Visual Studio extension I ever use. It's fantastic. So I was really bummed to read this, which tells about the legal trouble Jamie has been having with Microsoft over his truly useful product.


I'm no legal expert, so I have no idea which side is "right" here (assuming that it's even as black and white as that). All I know is it would suck if Jamie had to stop making TestDriven.Net, or even got so annoyed that he didn't feel like working on it any more, and that he has my sympathy. I've been in situations where legalities influenced technical decisions in distasteful ways many a time, and it always offends my sense of software aesthetics.


I wanted to blog this because I think people should be aware of it. It's days like this I seriously consider ditching as much proprietary software as I possibly can and living the free and open software lifestyle for real.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Secret To Software Estimation: Lie Like Scotty

I see that Scott Hanselman posted about software estimation. Excellent advice, as usual. Here's my somewhat less serious advice, in the form of a quote from "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock":


Kirk: "How long to re-fit?"

Scotty: "Eight weeks. But you don't have eight weeks, so I'll do it for you in two."

Kirk: "Do you always multiply your repair estimates by a factor of four?"

Scotty: "How else to maintain my reputation as a miracle worker?"

Kirk: "Your reputation is safe with me."


I always multiply my initial gut-reaction estimate by four. So if I think it'll take a day, I tell the client it will take a week. If I think it'll take a week, I tell the client it'll take a month. This works really well for a couple of reasons:


  1. My initial gut-reaction estimate is almost always wrong by a factor of two or three.

  2. When I tell the client it's going to take a week and it takes three days, they're thrilled.


The funny thing about all this is that it still works even if I tell the client what I'm doing beforehand. Weird but true: I tell them a week, they know I actually think it'll take a day, but they're still happy when it's done in three.


Of course, this really only works after I've established a track record of delivering solutions to hard problems. And my miracle worker reputation gets a bigger jump from not telling them beforehand, so I usually don't. Except for the ones that read this blog.

Monday, May 7, 2007

FlexWiki 2.0 Beta 1 Released

I've just posted the latest FlexWiki bits on SourceForge. Get 'em here.


I seem to say this every few months, but this is a pretty major milestone on the long, long road to FlexWiki 2.0. Specifically, this is the first release where essentially everything from FlexWiki 1.8 works again. So the RSS feeds, the newsletters, and the administration pages have all been repaired, which is nice. The one thing that's still broken is the SqlProvider. Since most people use the FileSystemProvider, I don't think that's a huge deal. I'm fixing the SqlProvider even now, and it will be present in FlexWiki 2.0 Beta 2.


The major new feature in Beta 1 is the security infrastructure. FlexWiki now sports topic-level security. That means you can put something like this


AllowRead: user:candera

DenyEdit: anonymous


in a topic and it'll work. You can also do this sort of thing on a per-namespace basis, or wiki-wide. It works with either Windows or Forms authentication, and I've even thrown in a simple implementation of some login/logout pages for people that want to get something simple set up for Forms authentication.


If I seem excited about the security stuff, it's because I am: the whole reason I ripped FlexWiki apart (starting nearly two years ago!!) was to make it possible to add security in a maintainable fashion. Now it's done.


You can read more about the new security features here.


As far as the road ahead, there are really only two tasks remaining before I can shove FlexWiki 2.0 RTW out the door:


  1. Fix the SqlProvider.

  2. Analyze and tune performance.


I've already started the SqlProvider work, and I don't expect too many problems. Performance could be easy or could be hard - I'll need to start by comparing the performance of the 2.0 bits with the 1.8 baseline. That'll tell me how much work I have to do.


But any way you slice it, the release date for 2.0 RTW is a whole lot closer than it used to be.