IS Department

SOAP to Clouds

Posted in Programming by Brian Russell on October 1, 2008

I read this comic over at the It’s Just A Bunch Of Stuff That Happens blog and it I found it to be pretty funny.  Thought I would share it with you.


The Links Have Built Up…Link Dump Time!

Posted in Network,Programming,Uncategorized by Brian Russell on June 19, 2008

The stared items in Google Reader have built up to a unmanageable level.  I star them because I want others in my team to read them.  Here are the ones that, after looking at them the second time, still seem worthwhile.

Everyone Links:

One in three IT staff snoop on colleagues – We need to be trusted since we hold the keys to the business.  How many lied and said they didn’t snoop in this survey – a question brought up on Slashdot.

Are you going the way of the Dinosaur? Not just for developers, it applies to anyone in the IT career field.  What are you actively doing to keep yourself up to date?

Question your work – I love reading the 37signals blog.  I have found myself recently working on things that are not in line with business goals.

Developer Focused Links:

Ruby and Excel seem like a match for some upcoming work

Pronunciation Rules for Programmers – We have had discussions on this in the past.  Nice to have a source to refer to when needed.  I still like using the word Squirrely Braces for { }.

Scrum in 90 Minutes Presentation – Might be handy…

Sending mail through gmail with Rails – Seems useful for some future home project

Database Links:

SQL Server FAQ Link Page

Growing as a Developer

Posted in Programming by Brian Russell on March 3, 2008

I have been wanting to write a post for a while now which describes what I do to grow my skills as a developer and offer some solutions for others wanting to grow their skills. Mainly, this is a piggy back post to Rodrigo Diaz Cocha’s post called ‘How to be a better developer?‘ I won’t repeat what he wrote, so read it then come back. I basically have three sources of information: Blogs, Podcasts, and books.

The resources I offer up in this post mostly revolve around Ruby on Rails or .NET based technologies since they are currently what I am into, but the idea is to find resources that fit what you need to learn.


My primary source of information comes from reading. Blogs are by far one of the best sources for you to obtain your knowledge from. I believe that if you have a diverse blog roll (list of blogs you read), you can gain a wide angle view on the technologies you are using. Spending just 30 minutes a day scanning your favorite blogs will help you keep your pulse on the technologies you are using and allow you to pick up new techniques and ideas to apply to your development. The biggest thing you can do is read about things you don’t know about. This exercises your mind to learn new things. Here are some of the blogs I am currently reading:

10x Software Development

Coding Horror


James Shore – Successful Software

Musings of a Software Development Manager

Null is Love


Scott Guthrie

Scott Hanselman

A Fresh Cup

37 Signals Blog

Softies on Rails




After blogs, my next favorite thing is podcasts. Podcasts can easily be synchronized with your iPod or MP3 player and be listened to anywhere. It is amazing just how much I listen to while driving to and from work each day. My commute is less than 10 minutes, so I get about 20 minutes a day to listen just from driving.  I also listen any other time I run around town in the car just adding to the time I can get through them.  Just from driving I get about 1-2 hours a week.  Way more productive than listening to some pop music from a boring radio station.
I find tech podcasts to be really hard to listen to while I work. I just can’t concentrate on the details from both activities at once. I believe you are kidding yourself if you think you can. You are letting one activity suffer more than the other, but both suffer. The idea is to find time when you can listen where it doesn’t impact other activities and you can think about what the people are saying.

Here are some of my favorites right now (all can be found on iTunes):

Cranky Geeks

.NET Rocks


Rails Envy Podcast

Ruby on Rails Podcast

This Week in Tech


This good old fashion medium still has a lot to offer. Books are all around us, and it just takes you to dedicate yourself to read one. Here is a challenge to everyone, find a tech book to read from beginning to end and force yourself to read some amount of time every night until it is done. Fit a tech book in between your regular book reading (if you do that) and don’t allow yourself to pick up another until you finish your tech book. If you don’t normally read, just dedicate about 15-30 minutes a night to reading, don’t allow yourself to watch a recorded TV show before you read.

Well, I hope that helps some people out. The main point is to seek out good quality information sources and consume them regularly. You do that and you can’t help becoming better!

Great Quote About Autotest

Posted in Programming by Brian Russell on February 7, 2008

I was over on the Softies on Rails blog reading a post about unit testing.  I was browsing through the comments and I came across this gem by James Avery: 

Exactly, what Jeffrey said. Autotest is like a super duper little build monkey who throws poo whenever your tests fail.

Probably the best software description ever!

Restful Authentication in Rails 2.0

Posted in Programming by Brian Russell on February 7, 2008

I came across this post yesterday about how to do Restful Authentication in Rails 2.02:

From the post:

This tutorial was built and tested using rails version 2.0.2. Features covered include activation, changing passwords, forgotten passwords, enable/disable users, roles and OpenID.

Seems to be exactly what every site could need! I will be working through it this weekend.

UPDATE (2/9/2008):   I have went through this tutorial, and everything worked first try.  I couldn’t have been more excited once I realized I didn’t have to spend 2 hours chasing my tail trying to get someone else’s code to work.  I am now going to go through and make some tweaks where I need them.  I recommend this to anyone wanting to add authentication to their application in Rails 2.02.

Oh ya, the OpenID mention isn’t really covered in this tutorial.  He links to another tutorial for adding it.  Oh well, can’t get everything given to me.

Infected Machines Suck

Posted in Network,Programming by Brian Russell on January 30, 2008

If you have any error detection/capturing on your site, you will probably come across one of the most annoying things on the Internet….Zombie Computers.

Right now, every few days, one of the computers on this list is hitting my site with a bad URL parameter producing an error in our web application.  This doesn’t hurt anything, but it sure is annoying. 

I will have to go into the code and explicitly check for the bad parameter and redirect the requester.  Maybe I should redirect the specific attack I am getting to the Wikipedia site.  That would be fun.

It is good practice to fix these types of errors, but normal people won’t see it.  I am only fixing this to give me satisfaction that I serve them up any page I want and so I don’t continue getting error emails every few days.

Google Charts – Ruby Style!

Posted in Programming by Brian Russell on December 17, 2007

By now everyone has probably heard about the Google chart API.  If you haven’t, check out the announcement.

I spent some time playing around with the API by just creating URLs and seeing what the browser would show.  After I was familiar with the API, I decided it would be cool to create a gem that wrapped this functionality so I could use it in my Ruby on Rails applications.  Of course, before you start any programming work, you should first go look to make sure someone else hasn’t already done the work for you.  Low and behold, there are a few out there.  Here is one I found I think I will be working with myself – Googlecharts.  The page has some good examples of what is possible, and it appears to include most, if not all, of the whole API.

Did You Hear…

Posted in Programming by Brian Russell on November 19, 2007

…that Visual Studio 2008 was released today.  Of course you did, because it is on EVERY single blog I subscribe to where the author is a MS developer.

Let me help everyone out…shut up already!  I must have seen about 30+ posts about VS 2008 on only about 20+ blogs of MS developers.  Way too high of a ratio!

The people that read your blog already know, if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be reading your .NET blog.

I needed to rant a bit…

As far as I am concerned, this is a way bigger story.

The Wayback Machine – Helped Me Do My Job

Posted in Programming,Uncategorized by Brian Russell on November 19, 2007

I just had an incident today that I thought I would share with you, and expose you to a new resource if you don’t already know about it.  The Wayback Machine.  I have used it in the past for mindless fun.  You know, to look how Google’s main page barely changes, and Yahoo’s exploded into a unreadable mess.  This time, I actually had a work reason to visit it.

Our website was written by a third party, and when we first deployed it we didn’t have the complete source in our source control repository.  We noticed something that needed tweaked at one point on our job listing page (the wording caused confusion for people), and we went to the web server and directly tweaked the html on our job page since we didn’t have the source to update and deploy from.  This prompted us to get the source code in our repository, better late than never!

Anyway, here is the text before the change:

in-process 1

and here is the text after the change:

in-process 2

I know it wasn’t a huge change, but the wording was previously approved and delivered by HR and I didn’t remember it.

Fast forward past that change and a few revisions, we noticed that this text was no longer on the site.  I needed to put the text back onto the site.  The problem was, I didn’t remember what the exact text was that needed to be there and the HR rep was out of the office.  I went through our source control to look at the different versions of the file to find the text, but the initial upload and future changes didn’t include the wording because we tweaked it directly on the server itself.

I could go hunt through some backups, but I would rather pull my teeth out.  That was when I remembered the Wayback Machine (internet archive).  I ran our site through it, and was presented with a bunch of different versions I could easily look through to find what I needed.  Once I found it, I copied the text, pasted it in the source controlled file, deployed a new version of our site, and everything is now good!

SharePoint Styles and Modifications

Posted in Network,Programming by Brian Russell on November 1, 2007

We are about to roll out SharePoint in our organization and we wanted to apply some small tweaks to the design.  I went out looking for how to modify the CSS files ‘the correct’ way and I found this little gem in the Internet trash pile.  It takes a bunch of the styles and shows you where they are applied by using screen clippings.  THANK YOU!  You can also figure this out by using a developer toolbar in your favorite browser, but this is much easier to me.

I also found a SharePoint Cheat Sheet that looks promising.

We also needed to add a company logo to all sites within a site collection.

Here is a post explaining how to properly use alternative styles without messing around with the CORE.CSS file.

And just because I thought this was neat, maybe I will do this when I get time

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