As a bit of background, for the last couple of months I've been doing some work for a personal client aside from the work for
Seismic Technologies which is on the back burner till we pick up some more investment interest (I'm still the lead dev though) - the project is an add-in for an existing product (COM interop) which be must be deeply-integrated, as well as being capable of being used in stand alone mode...

It's a very advantageous project considering the time frame, but that's part of the fun :) Once the clients moved forward on some marketing I'll post a little more about some of the challenges I've faced along the way.

At any rate - the project's stalled briefly while the clients doing a little business analysis to get the underlying methodology sorted - so they've asked me to switch across to building the license generation / customer portal / license purchasing module for their preexisting CMS system (CMS made simple - PHP) ... where are the ruby or Monorail CMS's to wean my clients onto?

PHP... ack

... So I haven't used PHP in anger for years and years, but the one advantage of dynamic languages is you can generally hit the ground running a lot quicker then their statically compiled competitors...  maybe PHP even more so because it's focused on web development.

So far the two things that have bugged/puzzled me are:
  • Classes don't call their base classes default constructor implicity - you have to do that yourself.  This isn't all bad, at least you can control when the default constructor is called.

  • Methods are instance, static and pseudo-instance all in one...

I think the second one bugs me more because you end up with 2+ potential code paths that should be accounted for in testing, if your exposing an "api" for consumption - or more importantly you should throw an exception for the usages you don't wish to allow (I'm probably missing the "quick and dirty" point here of course ;o) - it's hard to fight years of  instance methods != static methods...

Maybe I'm just old fashioned and there's nothing wrong with this, I should have a flick through Programming Language Pragmatics again, there must be some other dynamic languages with similar behavior?

At any rate, the example:

class A
function foo()
if (isset($this)) {
echo '$this is defined (';
echo get_class($this);
echo ")n";
} else {
echo "$this is not defined.n";

class B
function bar()

$a = new A();
$b = new B();

And the output of that little example is shown below, notice how A:foo() knew it was being called from class
...  I wonder what phalanger is doing under the hood to achieve the same thing in the CLR...

$this is defined (a)
$this is not defined.
$this is defined (b)
$this is not defined.

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The slacker got tagged

Well I've been really slack of late re: the blog and the coding community in general - but at any rate, what brought me back into focus was actually getting email regarding Splicer - yes, there are people using it... who knew?

At any rate, I also noticed that reading back through other peoples blogs - it appears I was actually tagged by Alex James - now I had a personal blog for a while before a technical one, and it's that kind of bollix that drove me away from it as a past time :) but then I'm just a sour sod, soooo.... I've decided to respond, if for no other reason but to confirm that I do in fact read Alex James blog - but I wont bother inflicting the pain on anyone else (plus most of the NZ bloggers have already been swatted a few weeks ago)

Without further delay, 5 things you probably don't know about me:

1) I got engaged last year on the rocks at pink beach, omaha.

2) The first programming language I learned was basic for the vic20, followed shortly by gwbasic.  And then (turbo) C++ when I was 11 or 12 (I forget exactly).

3) I bought my first car at the end of last year, a BMW 318ti.

4) I grew up on a farm and was home schooled for a couple of years, got Dux at the dubious Rodney college in Wellsford, and then did some tertiary studies (ie. made new friends) at Unitec.

5) My cat is named shodan, and my previous cat was run over and consequently body-snatched by gypsies or possibly itallians (according to the neighbours at the time...)

Wasn't that fun, tune in next time when I actually post something of value :)

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Apologies for the extended blog down-time... moved house last weekend (and did a few major changes to my network, including a entirely new domain etc.) and only just got a chance to set up an Ubuntu/apache/mod_proxy box for forwarding requests onto the server where my blog lives.

Drop me a comment if anything seems a little wonky (ie. missing images etc.) as I did the config in a hurry  :)

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Odd designer behaviour...

The evil designer attribute ;o)

I'm working on a project at the moment where the client want's an
"Add-in" for an existing piece of software... it's a COM interop
project, .Net 2.0 (and yes, it uses Castle, IoC sits in
nicely with
the IServiceProvider :) and it
hosts a custom designer, and the add-ins must exist in their own
directory, outside of the host applications base directory.

At any rate, it's been working just fine so far, but today I was
trying to introduce some custom designers... and they weren't
being constructed... which highlighted some odd behaviour in the
design time support - I have 6 or so assemblies, most
are support assemblies, some containing controls and their
associated designers, something like this:

public class MyButtonDesigner :
ControlDesigner { ..}


public class MyCustomButton :
ButtonBase { .. }

And then there is the core assembly which hosts the design
surface etc. and contains a number of  COM-visible classes
- one of these class in the core assembly is
constructed via Com interop by it's Name, and everything starts
it's life from there in their Add-in, much like a Main class in a
WinForms project.

So the core assembly references the support assemblies, and has
no problem creating controls at runtime within these

But then...

However, the design time support fails to construct or make use
of the custom designers... and doesn't blow up, it just
fails silently - personally I hate this kind of behaviour...
I like things to fail fast, in your face :)

It appears the custom designer is never constructed because
the design time infrastructure fails to locate the
assembly it's held within, even though my code has
just created an instance of a control from the same said
assembly not an instant before... arghh!

To my mind this is madness... I'm not passing a string reference
to the type, and the assembly is already loaded, it should be as
simple as using the Type in the attribute to create an instance
of the designer - looking at the internal implementation of
this attribute, I can see where it all goes terribly wrong:

public DesignerAttribute(Type


      this.designerTypeName =

      this.designerBaseTypeName =


It's still a puzzle as to why this isn't being resolved... the
assembly is already loaded against the current AppDomain - I
guess I could mess with the fusion logger to figure it out, there
must be some subtle different - but I didn't have the time to
waste, so I just cheated, implementing an
AppDomain.AssemblyResolve event handler to take
care of returning the assembly that's already loaded when
matching against a set of pre-loaded assemblies.

I think the silent failure is what annoys me the most, this is
something which could be easily introduced and might not be
imediately detected when performing a minor update... I'm still
not sure how I could write a test to detect it...

Speaking of custom designers... I'm unimpressed by how most
custom designers are marked internal... especially for classes
that are designed to be subclassed... why the hell is the
ButtonBaseDesigner marked internal?

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New stuff


Well I've been playing with a couple of things this weekend... first off is Vista... it's been on my laptop for a while now, but I haven't really been using it because It's a bit of a drag getting my development environment set up... but I've been working on that tonight, and have my current project being built successfully... so that's cool... the only real problem is my laptop is no longer a laptop since I've installed Vista...

The problem is power... where as I could squeeze upwards of 2 to 2.5 hours from the battery under xp, in power saving mode with Vista I get an hour if I'm lucky... it says exactly 1 hour of available capacity after boot, every "build all" in Visual Studio reduces that number by about 5 minutes... this is not particularly useful, heading to a cafe to code for an hour or two is looking problematic - At first I thought that perhaps the minimum speed step value wasn't being utilized, but according to the resource monitor it's at "37%" of the maximum frequency, which is ~800mhz, which seems right... So I have no idea why my battery life is so bad.

Second to this, max performance is only workable for about two hours before the machine will freeze - too much heat - not a new problem, certainly this was an issue under xp sp2 or win2k3 - Incidentally it's an HP NW8240 which scores 4 on the "Vista" performance scale (Pentium M 2.13ghz, 2gig ram, ATI FireGL V5000) and the cooling solution is really not adequate to deal with the heat generated from the processor and GPU at max performance, but it only cropped up while gaming in the past with XP SP2... now this happens while working with Visual Studio 2005 for a couple of hours... I suspect it's probably because I'm using Aero, the laptops definitely hotter then it used to be, I'll switch off Aero tomorrow and see how I fare, problem goes away if I switch to balanced performance mode of course, but without max performance Resharper 2.02 is an utter dog.

Other problem I have is getting bluetooth to work, which is a bit of a pain when using my phone as I've lost the mini-SD adaptor so I can't slot it into my monitors card reader... more a minor niggle though, I can live without it for now.

Supreme Commander

The other thing I've been playing with this weekend was the Supreme Commander beta, spiritual successor to Total Annihilation... TA was the defacto RTS we played while I was at uni, and it also served as the standard by which we measured any future RTS's (and  generally found them wanting, especially when it came to an interface for selecting, scheduling and command units)...

SupCom is very faithful to the concepts and feel of TA, and it runs just fine on Vista, but I did end up lowering all the settings, and still suffered from overheating and crashes after half an hour of play on my laptop... *sigh* I need to experiment a little further to see how the dual screen support works, but so far the game looks great, and it provides some wonderful strategic views which make it easier to control masses of units (And I do mean masses, hopefully the multi-threading support is good, I could definitely see this game benefiting from dual-core, or maybe quad-core once an implementation is released which isn't quite so gimped)... looking forward to getting my hands on the finished product when it's released next year.

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