What? You haven’t registered for the best developer conference in the Northeastern U.S. yet? Well don’t worry, there is still time. First, let me tell you why you need to attend.

Full disclosure: I am a founding board member of the TechBash Foundation. Myself and a few other people run this event for the community. We make no money from the event. All fees and revenue generated by TechBash are put directly into the event to cover costs.

OK, on to it…

What is TechBash?

TechBash is a 3 day developer conference. If you are interested in topics like .NET, Web, Cloud, JavaScript, DevOps, Architecture, Patterns, Mobile, Frameworks and more, you should be at TechBash.

Why should you be at TechBash 2017?

I’ll summarize and you can read on below for more details:

1. Content – TechBash has got great content. Want to learn about the latest frameworks and patterns from industry experts? We’ve got them. Want to hear directly from Microsoft employees and MVPs? We’ve got plenty of them. TechBash is bringing in the best speakers from top tech companies to deliver content to you. read more…

2. Location TechBash is organized by a small group of developers who were tired of traveling across the country for good content. So now they are bringing the content to you. TechBash is in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. That’s less than a 2 hour drive from NYC or Philly. Plus, the short drive time means you won’t need to ask your boss for two extra travel days. read more…

3. Price. Book now and you can register for TechBash plus 3 nights in the hotel for less than $1000. That’s a great price for a conference of this caliber. Plus, no airfare needed so TechBash fits into your budget!  After 9/8 hotel rates may vary. read more…

4. Venue  The Kalahari Resort. This is the largest indoor water park in the country. So while you are coming to learn and network with tech leaders from around the country and meet up with old friends and new, you can have a little fun and hit the water slides. read more…

5. Fun for the Family – Yes, it’s a huge water park. But there are a ton of other activities at the Kalahari Resort and nearby. Plus, Friday afternoon we have Sara Chipps hosting a Jewelbots build event for kids 8 and up. They can learn to code too. read more…

 

Plus, if you want to bring the whole team, contact us regarding group discounts: info@techbash.com

 

Great Content – Learn from the best

We’ve got great speakers from top tech firms around the country coming in to speak to you. And you may notice these are some of the same speakers that you’ll see at much more expensive conferences. Here are a just few of our featured speakers:

image

 

And if you are interested in content direct from Microsoft, we’ve got that too:

image

OK, here is a full list of our speakers. You can see our current schedule on our website.

Alon Fliess, Ambrose Little, Anne Bougie, Anoop Kumar, Ashley Grant, Bill Wolff, Cameron Presley, Chris Houdeshell, Damian Brady, Danny Brown, Dave Voyles, Donovan Brown, Eran Stiller, Erika Carlson, Gajan Pathmanathan, Jason van Brackel, Jeffrey Fritz, Jeremy Clark, Jim Wooley, Joseph Guadagno, Joshua Garverick, Ken Dale, Kevin Griffin, Lee Brandt, Nate Barbettini, Nick Landry, Ondrej Balas, Oren Novotny, Paul Hacker, Richard Taylor, Sam Basu, Sara Chipps, Scott Allen, Scott Kay, Stephanie Herr, Stephen Bohlen, Steve Michelotti

Location – If you are in the Northeast, we are close by

Just check out the map below. We are about 2 hours from NYC, NJ, and Philly. We are close by to Delaware, Central and Western PA, NY State, Maryland, DC and much more. The best part is that you don’t need to sit on long flights or ask the boss for extra travel days just to attend TechBash! Oh, and that means travel costs are lower too.

image

Price – The Price is Right!

TechBash fits your budget! An all access ticket to TechBash is only $349. That includes 3 days of content plus breakfast, lunch and coffee/snacks too. Compare that price to some other conferences and see what you think. Of course, you’ll need to stay over for a few nights. We’ve got great prices reserved at the Kalahari Resort (use group id 1145) and if you book quickly you can still get the conference registration and 3 nights in the hotel for under $1000. That is an incredible deal for the content we provide. If you need help convincing your boss, check this out.

Venue – The Kalahari Resort is AWESOME!

To start, The Kalahari is a first class conference center with plenty of Wi-Fi to go around! The place was brand new last year and this year they expanded to add another 500 hotel rooms. Plus, it is now the largest indoor waterpark in the country! So after you are done learning from the best, hit the slides and have some fun!

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Family Fun – There is plenty to do!

Bring the whole family to TechBash! The kids will love the waterpark but that isn’t all there is for families. This year TechBash is very proud to announce that Sara Chipps will be offering a hands-on event for kids ages 8 and up to learn to code and work with Jewelbots. Kids will learn entry level coding and Arduino. Plus there is face painting, crafts, and more! There is a $10 ticket required to cover costs for this. Check out all of the great stuff to do while at TechBash on our site. We’ve got a ton of ideas.

I hope I’ve shown you why TechBash is the best conference for you. Contact me via my blog if you have any questions.

Thanks,

Andy

I had a great time on Friday 3/20 presenting “End To End Development with Schwammy’s Favorite Patterns and Practices”. Thanks to everyone who came out and sat in a packed room for a full day. And even though we had a pretty large spring snow storm, I’m pretty sure everyone stuck around for the whole day. I hope you all made it home safely.

In this talk I covered a lot of content. If you need to follow up with me on any of these topics, feel free to contact me directly or comment on this post.

Thanks for the great feedback you all provided. The response was very positive. There were a few good suggestions and I’ll definitely be taking them into account when we plan a repeat of this presentation.

Here are the files I promised. I hope the solutions all work out for everyone. Please let me know if there are any problems.

By the way… one last tip… I used one of the VS Extensions that I talked about, VSCommands, to create the zip files for download. VS Commands has a feature allowing you to right click in Solution Explorer and Zip up the solution. It will automatically remove source code bindings, ignore bin directories, and more. Very cool.

Note that the sql scripts for the ELMAH database are in the solution in the App_Readme folder.

I recently did a presentation of VS tips at the Philly.Net user group. My presentation included some tips for Visual Studio 2013 as well as some for older versions. I’ve bundled 3 related tips into one post here.

Clipboard Ring

The first tip is one that applies to past versions of Visual Studio but it always surprises me how few people know about this. When you are pasting content in Visual Studio, instead of using the traditional Ctrl + V to paste, use Ctrl + Shift + V to cycle through the clipboard ring. It is simple and easy to use. Sometimes I use Ctrl C to copy some text and when I try to paste it I hit Ctrl C again by mistake. Now I just copied a (usually) blank line into my clipboard and I can’t get back to the text I really wanted to paste. Fear not, Ctrl + Shift + V to the rescue and I can cycle back through the clipboard to the text I really wanted.

Avoid Copying Blank Lines

In the tip above, I mentioned a common scenario where I sometimes use Ctrl + C by mistake when I really want Ctrl V for “paste”. Sure the clipboard ring can help solve that problem but VS 2013 introduces a new feature. Just click on over to the options page at Tools > Options and then navigate to Text Editor > All Languages (or better yet, use Quick Launch and type in “blank lines”). You’ll see this:

image

In your case, the checkbox is probably checked. Uncheck it and you won’t have to worry about this again!

Box Selection/Column Mode

Once again, this feature has been in VS for a long time but many, many devs still don’t know about it. Everyone (right?) knows about using Ctrl + right/left arrows (or the mouse) to select text. But in the following sample, I realize that I have four variables declared as string but they should be int.

image

To fix them, I can just use Ctrl + Alt + the arrows or the mouse. But now, it is not just the left and right arrows but the up and down arrows as well.

image

And while that is selected, I can just start typing:

image

Play around with this. You can also use it to insert totally new text on all lines too.

One lesson I have learned over the years is not to take any unnecessary risks during production deployments. I hope that by sharing this wisdom I can help others, but I have the sad feeling that this one of those lessons that people need to learn the hard way. Unfortunately it is too tempting to “just go for it” sometimes. If it works, consider yourself lucky. When it fails (and sooner or later it will) you will regret your cowboy ways. I hope you will read on, there are some great ways to mitigate the risk of deployments.

Most of the problems that occur during deployments are caused by simple human error. Nothing serious, just plain old forgetfulness! In my experience, deployment issues usually arise because someone just forgets to do something. The thing that gets forgotten could be anything from a database script that gets missed, a forgotten view, an overlooked setting, or a .config file omission. And I don’t mean that this happens because someone is a bad developer. It’s just human nature. We are not perfect and can’t possibly remember everything.

There is no foolproof solution for perfect deployments. However, by following these tips you can greatly increase your likelihood of success. Of course, any of these practices will help but for best results, combine them all.

Deploy as often as possible

The best way to make sure nothing gets missed is to deploy often. Time is your enemy, the longer you wait, the more likely you are to forget something. During the development process we do so many things to make our applications work properly in our development environment. Sometimes we use a lot of trial and error too. As time goes on we can’t possibly remember all of the steps we have taken along the way. Following an agile process with short sprints is a great way to achieve short deployment cycles. Agile or not, try to deploy when features are complete and at major milestones. You don’t need to actually deploy to production. Use the same deployment process for all your environments. If you can’t deploy to production (there are lots of reasons for this), create a staging environment and treat it like production.

Take notes

Even if you deploy often, don’t rely simply on your memory. Take a lot of notes along the way during development and during your deployments to other environments such as test, staging, etc. Develop a good system so that your notes are there when you need them, not buried and forgotten in a notebook somewhere. I like OneNote for stuff like this.

Have a solid plan

Don’t wing it. Have a good, standard plan and stick to it. The more you follow the plan, the more likely you are to succeed.

Use a good code base

Of course, you only deploy code that you know works correctly, right? Once you know it works, don’t leave anything to chance. One of the best ways to do this is to deploy the same code to all your environments. Avoid going back to your source repository and recompiling. So many things can go wrong once you do. After you deploy to your test environment and everything has been verified, you should use the exact same files (.dlls, script files, whatever) and deploy them to prod (or your other environments). Of course you will be probably need to make configuration changes, that is often unavoidable.

Watch your timing

Find a time that works good for you and your team. Different businesses will have varying constraints on when they can do production deployments so you will of course need to work within those parameters. But I definitely have my preferences for when I would choose to deploy. I like to deploy first thing in the morning when I am fresh and thinking clearly. If something goes wrong, I have a lot of time to fix it. Also, I’ll have access to other people/resources for help if needed. If I deploy at the end of the day and something goes wrong I’ll be stuck working at night to fix it. That is bad because a) I’ll be getting tired and might not think clearly, b) I won’t have people around to help and c) I won’t get to have dinner with my kids. I also like to deploy midweek. Monday mornings are bad because over the weekend I have forgotten things already! Monday is a great day to put final preparations on a big deployment. Fridays are bad too. Because if things go wrong, I could be stuck trying to fix things over the weekend!

Automate your process

I don’t trust myself or my memory much. The best way I can protect myself from me is to automate my deployments. Once things are scripted, automated and tested, I have greatly increased my chances for success. Most of the other tips I have listed are fairly easy to implement, but putting together an automated deployment can be a big project all in itself! Depending upon your project, automated deployments can be quite complicated and there is a lot to learn in this department. There are lots of great build and automation tools out there to help such as MSBuild, NAnt, TeamCity, Hudson, CruiseControl, etc. I’ve used a bunch of different tools over the years and now I am using Team Foundation Server 2012. I’ve found it to be the easiest and fastest of all to set up for my web project deployments.

Practice your deployments

Practice makes perfect, right? Unfortunately with deployments, just when you get your process working smoothly there will be some big change that will require you to modify the process anyway. But practice will definitely increase your chance for success. I even practice my automated deployments, that is the reason to have a staging/faux-prod environment. And practicing really comes in handy when it comes to database changes. It’s great to have a staging environment set up just for the purpose of practicing deployments. To practice, get your staging environment set up to match your production environment including .dlls, html and script files, databases and other resources. Then run through your deployment process on staging. Once complete, test your application to make sure everything works. If something went wrong in the deployment, don’t patch it. The best thing to do is roll back the entire staging system, tweak your process and run it again. You do this as many times as needed until you get everything right. Then you are ready to repeat your steps in your production environment. Of course, the more you automate, the less likely errors will be. But don’t assume that just because you have an automated system you don’t need to practice too.

Start soon

Lastly, do not wait to implement this process. Many developers wait, thinking that they’ve got a long development cycle and won’t be deploying to prod for a long time, maybe months down the road. When I start a new project I begin working on the build/deployment automation right away. I also make sure there are tasks created for this process. Making this an official deliverable buys me time for this work which can definitely be time consuming. And if you don’t get this work done early, you might not get to it at all. When a project is almost complete and the delivery date approaches, you will never find time to get your process in place. You will then be stuck with an error prone deployment that not only keeps you worried but will likely cause you to work on weekends fixing deployment issues.

 

A solid deployment process takes a lot of planning and work. Of course, if you have ever been on the wrong side of a bad deployment you know that all the planning is worth the extra effort! Good luck.

 

Lately I’ve been speaking at local user groups about many of the exciting new features in Visual Studio 2012. Since there is so much to know and learn about VS 2012, I decided to create a collection of blog posts with many of the tips. This collection of posts will include features that are new to VS 2012 as well as some existing features as well. To view all of the VS 2012 tips posted so far, click here.

Visual Studio 2012 has got a lot of great features. Some of them are really innovative and interesting. I don’t think of the Add Reference Dialog improvements as anything but “why in the world did this work so poorly before?”. I’m guessing the Visual Studio team had some reason but let’s face it, the old Add Reference Dialog just plain sucked. One of the biggest problems with it was that it was very slow to load. I’m happy to report that the new Dialog loads really fast! Try it out, I am sure you will be please with the results.

Access it as you did before, right click a project and then click “add reference”:

image

Like I said, it loads up really fast. As you can see, in the middle section is the complete list of assemblies from the .net framework. Note that the items with checkmarks have already been added to my project. Just as you’d expect, you can add references to installed.net assemblies, other projects in your solution and COM Libraries. And of course, you can browse your system for other .dlls.

When you use this the first few times I expect your get bit by the same snag that I did (and still do sometimes). See the screenshot below… Notice that I clicked on Microsoft.Build to add the reference. You can see it highlighted in blue. If I click the OK button I’ll be disappointed with the results as my reference will not be added. What is needed is either to double click the item in the list or click the checkbox itself. Either way you’ll see the checkbox is then checked. Now you can hit OK. By the way, unchecking an item in the list will remove it from your project.

image

 

I hope you find this tip helpful. To see more VS 2012 Tips, just click here.