Category Archives: Software

Must reads for new programmers

Iris Classon has a nice post up listing her top ten books to read this year.

The Little Schemer – It’s not about the Scheme language at all, it’s about teaching recursive thinking. Once you “get it”, it changes the way you think about programming.

Code by Charles Petzold – Explains how computers work by starting with Boolean arithmetic and working towards RAM and video cards. Short read, but essential in today’s throw-away culture.

Don’t Make Me Think – I’ve bought this book 3 times, every time someone borrows it they keep it. Essential if you are doing ANY kind of UI or UX work.

Test-Driven Development: By Example – Nice and practical. Resolves a lot of the questions that surround TDD like “How much should I test?” and “What should I test?”. Shows how TDD is less about the tests and more about the design of your code.

Writing Secure Code (2nd Edition) – You won’t work for me or with me if you don’t own this unless there is a threat involved.

Clean Code – Robert Martin – An excellent book for learning to recognize bad software.

Working Effectively with Legacy Code – Michael Feathers – Useful refactoring techniques combined with useful testing patterns. As a programmer, new or veteran, most of your time will be spent working on code you didn’t write.

My Git, Mercurial and Powershell setup

I’ve been using both Git and Mercurial for a while and I’ve been fine with the standard command line tools for both. Last year, prompted by a co-worker, I started to look at using alternative consoles on Windows. I tried using just a standard Powershell prompt and that worked for a while, but I wanted a little bit more power and configuration. So I looked at Console2 and ConEmu. I’ve settled on ConEmu starting a Powershell prompt for now, but I wanted to focus on how I customize the Powershell prompt, and my .gitconfig, to allow me to work more efficiently with Git and Mercurial.

First I looked into custom Git prompts, I started with Posh-Git. Kieth has done a wonderful job creating a custom Powershell prompt, as well as enhancing the overall Git experience through tab completion. I personally found it to be too slow on most of the repos I work with so I ditched it (for now). If you like posh-git, I’d recommend these two posts by Phil Haack as excellent starting points for installing and configuring posh-git.

I’ve been using the combined Mercurial and Git Powershell prompt written by Matthew Manela and I really like it. I like the way it displays un-staged changes better than posh-git and it’s been really fast no matter how large the repository. The only line I added to my Powershell profile is a call to load the Visual Studio Environment vars.

cmd /c """C:\Program Files `(x86`)\Microsoft Visual Studio 10.0\VC\vcvarsall.bat""" ""x86""

I mentioned that I use Git a lot at work, well that’s half-true. I use the Git-SVN bridge a lot at work. It allows me the flexibility to create local branches, but still lets me connect to my groups SVN repository. Someday, we’ll move to a full Git repository but we just moved a lot of developers off of TFS and onto Subversion and we want to wait a little while to shake up their entire world again. I use a lot of custom aliases in my .gitconfig and set up a global .gitexcludes file.

[alias]
    aa = add --all .
    st = status
    br = branch
    cl = clone
    co = checkout
    ci = commit
    sr = svn rebase
    sci = svn dcommit
    fu = reset --hard
    lg = log --color --graph --pretty=format:'%Cred%h%Creset -%C(yellow)%d%Creset %s %Cgreen(%cr) %C(bold blue)<%an>%Creset' --abbrev-commit --
    pu = !"git fetch origin -v; git fetch upstream -v; git merge upstream/master"
[merge]
	tool = kdiff3
[core]
    autocrlf = True
    excludesfile = "~/.gitexcludes"
[diff]
	guitool = kdiff3
[difftool "kdiff3"]
    path = "C:/Program Files (x86)/KDiff3/kdiff3.exe"
[mergetool "kdiff3"]
	path = "C:/Program Files (x86)/KDiff3/kdiff3.exe"
[svn]
	rmdir = true

Most of the aliases are self-explanatory and are pretty common in .gitconfig files. The two most useful aliases I have in that file are the “pu” and the “fu” aliases.

git fu – Does a hard reset, effectively dumping all of my changes and putting me back at the HEAD.
git pu – Does a pull request from my origin repo, then the upstream remote repo, and finally merges the two together. It’s a handy shortcut for getting my forks up to speed.

*.DS_Store
*.idea
*.dbmdl
*.user
*.suo
*.cache
*.log
*.log.*
[Oo]bj
[Bb]in
ErrorLogs
*~
*.swp
_ReSharper*
*.db
*.orig
*.rej
*.vs10x
CI
*.docstates

That is the contents of my .gitexcludes file. It covers most of the usual suspects I’ve run into. The “CI” blocker is custom to our work environment, that’s where our Continuous Integration builds end up when you run our build script. and .DS_Store is a blight on humanity that Apple needs to eradicate. There is a work-around for network drives at least. But if you plug in a USB drive, OSX will still create the .DS_Store directories on them and the work around will not erase existing .DS_Store directories on network shares.

I haven’t set up any aliases in my Mercurial config, I haven’t really found the need to. I find the Mercurial commands to be much more intuitive and easier to remember than the Git commands. Mostly because “Git hates developers

* I’ve hesitated writing this for a while because I may seem negative about a very popular Powershell module for Git called PoshGit. I understand that it works well for some people, and it has gotten faster since I first used it, but it still is too slow for my daily usage at work. I used it at home for a while, but I started to notice the LARGE pauses more and more when I would enter a Git directory when using PoshGit. So I switched to the module I talk about above. There is a way around the prompt performance issues on a per-repo basis. But if I have to turn off the custom prompt completely, posh-git looses some of it’s appeal to me. We had Keith, and some other Git folk, on the podcast to discuss the entire Git on Windows situation a while back and included a discussion of posh-git.