Archive for category Uncategorized

SQL Server named instance vs. default instance

When you’re installing SQL Server (2008 R2 in my case) and you are prompted whether you want to create a default instance or a named instance, understand that creating a named instance means that you will be required to add that instance name to the server name when you connect via SQL Server Management Studio (SqlServerName\InstanceName). If you want to be able to connect to your instance without having to specify it explicitly, create a default instance. Then you just connect to SqlServerName and it finds the default instance.

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Life, death, and broken software

In a post titled Life, Death, and Splitting Secrets, Jeff Moser presents a software solution for splitting up a password N ways so your loved ones can put the secrets together and get access to critical information from you after your death, using a computer program.

While this shared secret approach is interesting for certain uses, it is unwise for Moser’s stated use… Read the rest of this entry »

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Easy peasy JPGs to PDF conversion

Our scanner at home is an old flatbed that scans to a .jpg file. When you have several pages that you need to scan and send to someone, a pile of JPGs isn’t very nice—you’d rather have one PDF.

If you’re running Linux (at home I’m currently running Fedora 20 – “Heisenbug”), this is easy peasy: with ImageMagick installed, just use the convert command:

convert 1.jpg 2.jpg 3.jpg 1-2-3.pdf

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Mumps-style “dotted do” notation example

FT                                      # A label (for jumping to)
  I $$RDVALS^MISC22()=SUCCESS DO QUIT   # The second space between DO and QUIT is significant
  . X X                                 # The two Xs mean different things (Cache' is not a context-free language)
  . S MSG2=MSG_" succeeded."            # Expect MSG to float in from somewhere else
  E DO
  . W 1/0

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Method signature joke

STDMETHODIMP CI3DBTranDataSet::GetReal(), man.

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Gerald M. Weinberg

Today, while looking for the Reasons article about which I just posted, I found out that Jerry Weinberg has recently come out of what was supposed to be terminal cancer. I was moved to write him this letter, which I sent this morning:

June 3, 2010

Gerald Weinberg
c/o Dorset House Publishing Co.
3143 Broadway, Suite 2B
New York, New York 10027 USA

Dear Mr. Weinberg,

As a computer programmer of thirteen years, I have read and benefited from your writing – specifically, Exploring Requirements and Are Your Lights On? Thank you for working to understand what’s wrong with how the people within software development organizations think and articulating what needs to change and how. Your work has made a difference to me.

I went to your website this morning and saw that you have had a battle with cancer. Recently you were declared cancer-free — praise God for that!

Mr. Weinberg, you have had a brush with death, and because I love you I need to warn you of the Day of Judgment that we all will face. On that day, what will you say to the King?

I do not know the state of your soul before God, but I implore you, please do not deny the existence of the King. God who made the heavens and the earth and gave you every breath you’ve ever taken rules in righteouness, and he will call you to account one day. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Only those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ will be saved.

Oh Mr. Weinberg, repent and be saved!

Sincerely and with love,
Daniel S. Meyer

I don’t have a mailing address for Mr. Weinberg, and I don’t know if his publisher will forward it on to him. Even if they do, how likely is Mr. Weinberg to repent? Am I not a fool for doing such a thing — not to mention for advertising it here? Where is my respectability?

Brothers who are in Christ: souls are at stake. Fool or no, I care about Mr. Weinberg’s soul. On Judgment Day I want to be able to look in the eyes of all, knowing I was faithful to warn.  And may God grant repentance to those He has chosen!

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As developers, we consider ourselves to be logical thinkers. And to an extent, we are able to think logically, to find and implement technical solutions.

But is our decisionmaking driven by cool reason?  Yes, we say — by cool reason.

What about when we communicate our evaluation of a Microsoft tool to co-workers?  Cool reason?

Not usually.

The fact is, many of the decisions we make as developers are made based on emotional arguments couched in technical terminology.  Reading a post by Jerry Weinberg several months back brought on an Aha! moment that changed my thinking about us developers.

From Mr. Weinberg’s post titled Reasons, then:

Recently, I found myself recalling that summer day, half-a-century ago, when a client asked me to find out why their Software Engineering Process Group was having so much trouble getting people to adopt new software tools. It couldn’t be the tools themselves, they reasoned, because quite a few people had adopted them and liked them. So, I set out to interview both adopters and rejecters, to discover the reasons some were using the tools and some were not. Here are some of the answers I obtained:

Darlene: I installed it because the boss told me to use it.

Porter: The boss told me to use it, so I didn’t use it.

Ursula: I installed it because the boss forced me to use it.

Marcy: The boss forced me to use it, so I installed it, but I don’t use it. He wouldn’t know the difference.

Quentin: I used it because it was like what I used before, so I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble adapting to it.

Chuck: Why should I use it? It’s nothing new; it’s just like what I used before.

Carl: Hey, I used it right away, because it was new and different.

Cynthia: I’m not going to use anything that’s new and different. Too many things aren’t tested, and something’s sure to go wrong.

Mary: Of course I used it. Everyone else was using it.

Roy: Everyone else was using it – what a bore! You won’t catch me following the crowd.

Frances: Why should I use it? Nobody else was.

Edgar: Hey, I got to be the first one to use it!

Mort: I couldn’t use it. It didn’t do all the things I needed.

Alan: The thing I liked best about this tool was that it didn’t try to be a Swiss army knife and do everything anyone could possibly want.

Gerri: It was the perfect tool, because it had every feature I could possibly want.

Chico: Every time I hit a key by accident, it would invoke some obscure feature that I didn’t want in there in the first place. Finally, I trashed the whole thing.

Orion: I’m so busy, I needed a new tool to save me some time.

Belle: I’m so busy, I don’t have time to install and learn a new tool.

May: I’m not that heavily loaded. Why would I need a time-saving tool?

Paul: Well, I wasn’t so busy with other things, so I had time to install and learn a new tool.

Earl: It was freeware, so it was a bargain.

Justine: It was shareware, so it couldn’t have been any good.

Jacob: This tool costs $3,000. It must be good, so I’m using it.

Neelie: I’m saving the company $3,000 by not using it.

Willis: I won’t use it because I don’t like the way Microsoft makes software.

Samuel: I knew it would be good because Microsoft makes it.


Well, there were more, many more, but that’s enough of the infinite reasons to make my point. By this time, you may have noticed that I have arranged these reasons in pairs. Why? So you could see the pattern that I saw:

Every single reason to use the tool was matched by the same reason for not using it – and vice versa!

In other words, these reasons may look like logic, but they’re not logic – they’re just reasons. In logic, the reasoning comes first, then comes the decision. But in real life, it’s usually the other way around – first we make the decision, then we make up whatever reasons we need to “justify” the decision and make it look like logic…

Going back to the Microsoft example again, when the Microsoft tool blows up, do we have cursings at the ready?  If so, would we have had similar cursings at the ready if it had been our favorite open source tool that blew up?  If not, why not?  Are we of a mind to be understanding toward our open source tool and impatient with our Microsoft tool?  (The question has the same implications if we reverse the inclinations — positing a tendency for patience toward the Microsoft tool and impatience toward the open source tool.)

What I have described is not a logical argument about a tool.  It is an emotional argument about a company.  Perhaps there is an argument to be made against the company (“Where possible I  do not support Microsoft because of its history of corrupt business practices regarding smaller innovators in the market” would be an example of a moral argument.)  Cloaking such a moral argument as a technical argument against a particular tool, however, is not honest.  As developers, we don’t even realize we’re doing this, but we need to realize it.  It’s part of being a professional.

Read Weinberg’s whole article.

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