cmiles - info

Life, Tech and Unimportant Minutiae

Created and Updated by Charles on 6/26/2022.

Interesting what sticks with you, I couldn't tell you exactly which tools I downloaded or name a year as my favorite, but I can still remember getting excited about these lists and seeing them again makes me smile!

Those were different times and for various reasons in later years lists of tools weren't as interesting - with more tools, better search and more programming information online it become much easier to quickly find a tool 'on demand'. These days I'm back to wishing for more tool lists - lists by small business devs, lists from search-ranking-backpagers who aren't sponsored/popular/advocates, lists by craftsmen just for the love of it, lists from CRUDy developers decades in and still trying to do it better every time... I'd read those lists - so in the spirit of sharing here is my 2022 tools list!

Visual Studio Professional (often the latest Preview) - This has been a staple in my programming for about 15 years. I have of course had frustrations, installs gone wrong, mystery problems and other assorted issues - but mostly I just appreciate all the help it gives for getting things done and it has certainly improved over the years. Like many large/complex tools I would guess I probably only use 20% of this rather huge program...

JetBrains ReSharper - After some early use of DevExpress's CodeRush I started using Resharper in the late 2000s - I don't think anyone from that era would disagree that Resharper's refactoring capabilities at the time were magical and I have rarely run Visual Studio without Resharper since. In recent years Visual Studio's built in refactoring/tools have improved, but for now I'm sticking with Resharper... One detail about Resharper that I think deserves extra mention is that it has helped me learn a number of language features over the years - string interpolations, linq operators, initializers, etc... - that I would have otherwise been slow to 'see'.

LINQPad - my first LINQPad purchase was in 2008 and I'm still using it! I don't use it daily - but every week there seems to be some reason to reach for it. The program has gained all kinds of interesting capabilities over the years but my goto uses are code scratchpad (quicker than a new project, the always available db layer is often relevant, easy place to save fragments and extend over time), place to play with new Nuget packages (I'll often try new packages with test code in LINQPad before bothering to add it into any 'real' projects) and as a database query and update tool (I think SSMS is a better tool if I am thinking about 'the database' - LINQPad is a better tool if I am thinking about querys/data for code).

Fork - my generally straightforward use of Git seems to match well with the basic capabilities of most GUI git clients but for some reason Fork is the first tool that I am really happy with. Of course anything Git can be done on the command line - and Visual Studio offers some nice Git tooling also - but I continue to find that many day to day tasks are, for me, quicker and better in Fork. I have used Fork daily since late 2021 - well worth the cost!

GitHub - I work alone a lot in recent years and my use of GitHub is very basic - for me the real value in GitHub is that, at the moment, it has become ubiquitous enough that you never have to explain to anyone where your code is or why. My account on GitHub dates back to 2008.

Notepad++ - I'm not exactly sure when I settled on this as my goto 'notepad' variation - probably late 2010s - for me this matches perfectly with what I want for a 'right-click->quick edit' - honestly not a lot to say about this but it is a favorite.

Beyond Compare - Needing to compare things is inevitable and Beyond Compare continues to surprise me on the variety of files that it will produce useful comparison for (and the variety of data sources it will connect to). Used since 2014.

PowerShell - my Powershell skills are not deep but I know enough to get things done - for many years I have used Powershell for various build and deploy scripts.

grepWin - Mention grep and the command line should come to mind - with good reason, but grepWin is a simple way to get those features into a GUI File Explorer environment. Not sure when I found this but it has been a welcome addition to my toolbox.

RegexBuddy - without help I only remember the most basic regular expression syntax - for years RegexBuddy has been my goto for composing and testing regular expressions. I haven't really tried other options - just never felt the need. Used since 2008.

Postman and Fiddler - I'm lumping these together because basically I would rate these tools like these as 'critically important' but over the years I have only been a simple user of both of them. I don't know what I would do without the functionality I also have just never quite fallen in love with either of these programs...

AutoHotkey - It takes me a second when Capslock+h/j/k/l don't map to arrow keys and Capslock+y/u/i/o aren't control+arrow key movements... I love my Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard and keyboard/mouse-trackball/chair/desk/ergonomics are worth serious consideration if you spend any notable time programming - but over time I've found that I also put value on being able to quickly get to work efficiently on any machine. AutoHotkey is a nice compromise for me - no hardware to remember and nothing to plug in, but anywhere I can run the program I can add a few of my favorite keyboard details with minimal hassle.

Tailscale - This year I started using Tailscale - at first it was just an easy/secure/zero hassle way to connect to home (for years not much of a concern for me but now that home and work are no longer 5 minutes away from each other...). The ease of connecting a set of machines with nothing but a Tailscale install has been a revelation for me - it hasn't made it into any official use at work but I have already used it to connect dev machines for testing...

ErgoMax Adjustable Height Crank Desk - I've been lucky enough to have a motorized sit/stand desk at work for about 6 years now - I like it but we recently purchased 3 'manual' crank sit stand desks for home and I have to say these are a new favorite. They are smaller and simpler than my desk at work and these days that fits in well with what I want - nothing to plug in, less to break/go wrong. Used for about 9 months.

2022 June Sun behind the Tucson Mountains
Sun behind the Tucson Mountains. Charles Miles. 4/22/2022.

The list above are tools that I use regularly - for fun here are a few things I have been thinking about:

KeyMouse Track 304 - In addition normal/average keyboards I have used: Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard, Kinesis Freestyle Split-Adjustable Keyboard, ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II and owned/heavily used the keyboards on several Thinkpad laptops. I think the keyboard features I want are: split, quiet, curved keywell, dedicated physical function keys and a trackpoint or similiar pointing device that gives you the option to 'mouse' without your hands straying too far from the home keys. The closest I've seen that isn't a build it yourself affair is the KeyMouse Track 304 (the Dactyl Manuform Keyboard lacks the pointer but is worth mentioning also). For my budget the price ($700 as of writing) gives me a lot of pause but the real puzzle is what todo about having 5 different desks that I want to work from? Especially since I want 4 of those desks to be setup so that 'anyone' can sit down get work done... Do I get 5 of my preferred keyboard and have 2 keyboards at every computer? That doesn't seem great... Maybe in the spirit of not letting perfection get in the way of better just put one great keyboard at one desk? Smart but idk I'm just not inspired by that... So far the simplest solution has been to do mostly 'normal' keyboards, try to remember that more thinking and less typing is nearly always useful and vary my work routine enough that relatively unimpressive ergonomics of a normal keyboard aren't an issue.

JetBrains Rider - All of the great things about Resharper wrapped into an IDE that seems to be notably faster than Visual Studio! And the similarities between Rider and other JetBrains IDEs is a bonus. I've tried at time to switch to mainly using Rider but 'things' always come up - occasionally it seems behind supporting the pre-release version I am using, in the past WPF and Xamarin support were issues, I've had mystery problems while debugging that I can't replicate in production or debugging in VS... Some (maybe all!) of the issues are could be about my lack of experience with Rider - but regardless I haven't quite been able to justify switching from Visual Studio full time.

JetBrains Space plus JetBrains Gateway - When I look at Space ("The All-in-One Solution for Software Teams") it immediately makes sense to me and pairing it with the idea that anyone logged in can also connect to a remote development environment setup for the project seems very interesting! But two big things have tempered my excitement: it isn't GitHub (these days a core value of GitHub seems to be that you just don't ever need to explain or justify GitHub - I like sourcehut as well but...) and the Gateway remote machine is (at least currently) a linux box and I don't think atm there is a way to set this up for Windows Desktop dev... I'm looking forward to seeing how this evolves

Visual Studio Code - so much attention and obviously a huge amount of functionality - it feels like there is something here I should be taking advantage of? But I can't quite figure out what - it seems worth loading Visual Studio for .NET dev and anything else loads faster and works more simply in Notepad++? Maybe at some point I'll figure out what I'm missing...

2022 June Cloudy Sunset
Cloudy Sunset. Charles Miles. 6/24/2022.

Welllll that's it I guess - let me know if you have thoughts on what I should use! charles at cmiles dot info


Created by Charles on 5/7/2022. Updated on 5/10/2022.

In upgrading an older service to CoreWCF I ran into some Pinvoke code for 'RawPrinting' (DllImport "winspool.Drv") with an unexpected return value that was causing nothing to print. I suppose this could make an interesting article - identify why this code worked under .NET Framework 4.61 and not .NET Core 6+, show the subtle code changes between .NET versions and maybe offer a clever PowerShell one-liner that would fix this problem in all of your code... I did none of that - I quickly made an honest assessment that my DllImports were copy and pasted, that I have only the most basic knowledge of how Pinvoke/IntPtr/Dllimports 'really' work and that exploring the details of various interop printing structures was unlikely to really be all-things-considered worth the time. In the end vague memories and web searches led me to Vanara: A set of .NET libraries for Windows implementing PInvoke calls to many native Windows APIs with supporting wrappers. Several minutes of light refactoring later printing was working again! (Oh and yes - this was all in service of pushing ZPL to the wonder, and occasional terror, that is our Zebra tag printers...)

At work over the past two decades we basically maxed out at 4 in-house developers - always with some part time positions - but right now I'm the sole in-house Dev/IT person. A big challenge with over 2 decades worth of in-house development is figuring out how to move things forward. Recently I took some inspiration from larger dev organizations and made the last commit in a branch that combines 137 projects under one solution. You can easily find information online about monorepo and monolith (usually vs micro-service) setups -> in the big picture our codebase is small and I am currently a team of 1, a much much much simpler situation than anything you will read about - but since our code base has traditionally been divided into silos I am hoping with this change to:

  • Take Maximum Advantage of Tooling - assuming you are on a reasonably capable dev machine Visual Studio+Resharper is happy to show you references, apply refactorings and show you errors from ALL 137 projects! Forget remembering what else your code change might impact - just have it all in front of you.

  • One Version - different syntax across language versions, library versions across framework versions, constantly changing external libraries and confusing problems referencing one library from another because of versions - all of these things cost painfully valuable time as projects spread out over years and decades of different versions... My hope is that having everything accessible in one solution makes keeping everything at one version possible.

  • Latest Versions - I know that staying on one version is at best a hopeful goal - but in truth I have a more ambitious goal: stay on 'latest'. Sure, every upgrade is a chance for some painful bug - but every update is also a chance that your programs improve with zero effort or new opportunities emerge. I have no idea why some of my database related code is running better under .NET 6 and latest EF - but it is, and in many projects it cost me basically zero time... My best guess is that in many cases the time to make upgrades will pay off in only having to do it once - upgrading Automapper to the next version even with breaking changes isn't that bad, having to figure it out multiple times with months/years in-between with upgrades from different versions involved each time is costly.

  • Constant Updates: What I have watched at work is that software that stagnates not only make life hard for devs but also causes process stagnation - this could be about the latest big-new-thing but is just as likely to be about small/quick changes: adding a shortcut key, coding a new warning when a user does something that works but is usually wrong, or a new report for a new problem. There are only so many resources (especially time) but both software and processes benefit when software can keep moving forward. In this setup the app with the shortcut key is already open, updated and ready to go in Visual Studio and adding the shortcut key might be an 'actual' 5 minute or less project! Right now it might be a 5 minute project - or it might be a half day to figure out which repo, checking it out and make sure the right build tools are installed, find the config file that was missed in the commit a year ago, try to upgrade packages but instead fall into a mire of version/package conflicts, figure out internal updates, etc...

  • Let Go of Believing You Know - In the 'old days' between number of people, fresh code and operational setup there was a period of time when the best skill may have been knowing who to talk to about some code. Over the years as decisions, software, people and processes have spread out over years, decades, of time - there is no one to ask, you just have to read the code, and that holds true even if you wrote the code! The single solution approach puts all the code in front of you - exactly what you need if you can't hold it all in your head.

We have plenty of code not in the current 137 project solution, legacy problems to solve and business challenges ahead - it isn't that I think this is a magic solution to our, or anyone's, problems - but I'm writing about it because I'm excited to find a way to improve and move forward even if it isn't a silver-bullet-everything solution to all software issues.

Mojave Sonoran Trail: A 625 Mile Thru-Hiking Route Introduction & Guide - always interesting to see something new and I have to say that even with 2 decades in the Southwest this route touches on MANY areas that I never considered exploring - worth checking out although I'd watch the first few YouTube videos before getting too excited as some of the scrambling looked a little intimidating to me!

Advanced Outdoor Technologies - I do love a good front-pack setup and this new-to-me company is making some interesting gear! I haven't ever seen these bags in person but at a glance they to be designed with a smart 'depth' - having tried a decent number of front packs this is key if you want to be able to see your feet (and you really do want to see you feet)... I currently use a Pajaro GRANDE Field Bag as a front pack, mainly for my camera.

2022 April Dusty Sunset
Dusty Sunset. Charles Miles. 4/12/2022.

Created by Pointless Waymarks CMS on 4/17/2022. Updated on 4/22/2022.

I came to WCF thru work after its heyday and never used it in any complicated scenarios. In the mid-2010s I used WCF in a set of WPF apps to exchange information across applications (it worked but later I added better drag and drop and the WCF based exchange was dropped), created an over built service that was never used (the library code was used directly) and in the late 2010s I wrote a backend for a Xamarin Forms Android App (still in production). These days I maintain several WCF services and while it is a little odd not to see REST calls and JSON these services mostly 'just work'. I can't speak to the experience of working with WCF in security heavy environments with complex business driven requirements - but by the time I used WCF the tech, tooling and help were quite mature and creating an internal service to exchange .NET objects was incredibly easy.

For better or worse full WCF support wasn't added to .NET Core - not a complete surprise but an incredibly painful detail (much like edmx...) in the effort to move existing Framework code to .NET Core!

So seeing the preview releases of 1.0 from the opensource CoreWCF Project project made me feel excited and grateful!!! I'm barely getting started with it but have already been able to get a test version of an old service running in a sort of 'hello world' way and have used the dotnet-svcutil to generate a client from the published metadata (if you tried CoreWCF earlier you likely found metadata publishing missing - it is now included!). Early days but I'm crossing my fingers this will be one more set of projects that can more to .NET Core!

.NET 7.0 - With preview 3 released it seemed like time to jump in so I moved PointlessWaymarksCms to .NET 7 and LangVersion preview. Tests pass and I'm writing this from a .NET 7 build so things appear to be working... This move was made easier by finding out about Directory.Build.props which lets you specify properties for all projects via a single file.

I met up with a photographer friend recently and got to see some of his workflow for processing images on the computer. It was inspiring and one thing it made me do is look around at additional tools. For years I have been reluctant to use tools outside of Lightroom. Partly because with my photography I could usually get 98-99% of the results I cared about in Lightroom - but also because for me processing photos is only part of the challenge... It turns out cataloging, keeping track of, finding and searching decades of photos is probably just as important as the processing! So the various things I have done over the years that have taken photos outside of Lightroom have occasionally made the cataloging very painful - eventually I settled comfortably into 'just Lightroom'.

From a look thru photo processing tools this round what seems to be sticking with me is DxO PureRAW. Basically at for-me-normal viewing sizes the results are not always impressive - but zoom in and I am finding that the denoising and sharpening DxO PureRAW is applying to distant details in landscape photos really might be worth paying for...

2022 April Sun over Cat Mountain
Sun over Cat Mountain. Charles Miles. 4/13/2022.

Created by Charles on 4/22/2022.

I don't know how or why you are here - in truth everything here is, and always will be, best classified as personal minutiae... the very definition of meaningless - a blast from past when internet was a a different place, bits of life floating peacefully in the dark void of the forgotten outer reaches of the net... the only new thing likely to happen here is more randomness thrown into this strange rippleless deep!

Why are you here again?

History:

In 2006 I started writing on cmiles.info using WordPress.com and for a good few years I wrote about tech, life and adventures. By the 2010s the posts were all about adventures, more and more about the Santa Catalina Mountains. The site was never taken offline but it was last updated in 2015.

In the early 2010s I started another WordPress.com site - consuming.cmiles.info - on which I put notes about what I was reading, watching and listening to. That effort ended in 2013...

These first sites informed my efforts on Hike Lemmon! | Hiking and Adventures in the Santa Catalina Mountains which I started in the mid 2010s. For many years that site took all my attention - and of course the 2010s were huge for Facebook, Instgram, Twitter and other now forgotten social media sites that at the time seemed useful and important.

Since 2019 my focus has changed - Pointless Waymarks and the software to generate it Pointless Waymarks Cms: A .NET 7 WPF Gui for Static Site Generation have taken my time and attention, I'm rarely on social media and a new house last year has meant fewer adventures.

Sometime in 2022 I looked back at cmiles.info, enjoyed it, and with the Pointless Waymarks CMS in a very usable state converted the tech and life posts to this new version of the site along with the content from consuming.cmiles.info. The posts related to the Santa Catalina Mountains will move to a new version of HikeLemmon (in progress atm) and adventure posts about areas outside of the Catalinas have been moved to PointlessWaymarks.

If you're reading this you are either here randomly and are unimaginably deep into the long tail of content on the internet or your a friend - either way send me an email, charles at cmiles dot info, and say hello, if nothing else I will be glad to congratulate you on somehow finding this!


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