Archive for the ‘Programming’ Category

“If you can read this, thank a teacher.” That was a poster in my 3rd grade classroom. They never said it would be “read this code.” Now that I’m teaching others to code, I can see why teachers continue to do their work, even if the career’s financial benefits aren’t in line with the value they add to society.
Take TEKY for instance. 50 people started to learn to code. 35 graduated after 9 weeks of instruction, and 7 more weeks of practicing what was preached. The teaching staff was paid a fixed amount. Those students? Off to careers paying $60K+ annually. Even for $100K of instruction – I don’t know what the total was – those students will have a huge impact on the economy many times that of the instructional investment. They’ve been launched from the nest, with incredible potential to live a better life than what the coal industry that abandoned them could offer. So the teachers hope for their “devlings,” and will teach another class to read and write code, and watch them grow and leave again.
It’s a bit heartbreaking. I still remember the jokes we told, the laughs and difficulties we shared as they learned, struggled, got up again and again, then got it. My fellow instructors I’m sure endured the same. You *want* them to succeed. And you’ve made dozens of friends along the way. They’re still your kids, though. They’re going to live their own lives, as careers, and once in a while you’ll reach out to each other to see how you’re doing. They’ll do great – you know that. Like a parent. They’re thankful – but they have a job to do, so they go do it. That pool of connections, of successes, grows. And I feel all teachers are greatly humbled by it. That’s real world change, simply by providing time, mind, and experience.
And maybe, someday, those students will become teachers, and receive the same joy and sense of pride we teachers do.
Dammit, “Cats in the Cradle” is in my head now.
Links to the graduation and open house videos:
Very proud!
-Auri

I’ve noticed students feel learning object oriented programming appears tough when first exposed to structured development practices. To add insult to injury, boring example relationships like “people” and “students” and even types of fruit and their plant family relationships are used to show how objects relate to each other. I’m more in the camp believing learning “scary” new concepts should be fun, even memorable. People tend to remember good jokes, and forget dull experiences. I experimented with an approach to OOP. I used the old children’s storybook, Everybody POOPs.

We’re all human beings. All Humans eat and drink, and everybody poops. It takes a system to get to the pooping stage. We also fart. Adults fart and say excuse me!, while children fart and giggle. They’re still Human. Hopefully you can see how these related entities can be turned into computer classes.

I finally got around to recording a video of my teaching this concept, as it relates to classes in Microsoft’s C#. Student reactions are always enjoyable. Most of the time, they laugh, and have fun. I usually get compliments that it’s a lot easier to remember because it’s funny. Some people are disgusted I would talk about such a topic in class – I’m thinking those people don’t have a sense of humor. No photos are involved, so what’s the big deal?

Watch the Video

Here’s my original Blog Post about it

I was challenged last year to write a JavaScript version of Everybody Poops. I finally got around to that this year, explaining objects to students at the TeKY Initiative. That was a bit tougher, since JavaScript isn’t really object oriented. Still, it was fun. The students even got me a poop emoji mug 🙂 You can view the code here. You’ll need to use the console to play with the object.

I’m continuing to teach concepts in [what I feel are] fun, real world ways. My first step has been to create “Real World Programming” videos on YouTube. Two are complete as of this article – OOP (link above) and Inversion of Control + Dependency Injection. I hope to do a few more in 2017 as time permits. If you have a suggestion, please let me know!

I’ve been using this example for a couple years now – explaining Object Oriented Programming with a cute example based on the book Everybody Poops. It’s fun, and much less bland than the other OOP examples I’ve seen 🙂

Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0PFHaX04mo

In case you missed the first video on Inversion of Control and Dependency Injection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcJN1XCs8t0

This is the second video in my Real World Programmer series. I hope you enjoy!

 

The built-in Facebook OWIN provider in ASP.NET MVC can open your website to the benefits of logging in via the social networking behemoth. Still, it’s limited when it comes to pulling in profile details such as photo, birthdate, gender, and so forth. I recently implemented retrieval of those profile properties, and will explain how you can do it, too! I feel the obvious benefit is your users don’t need to manually type in their profile details, should you have similar fields in your system.

I’m assuming you’ve created and configured a Facebook app via Facebook’s Dev center, and won’t be going into that process in this article.

Determine Which Profile Fields You Need

Before we write any code, you need to know to which profile details you desire access. Facebook used to be relatively open. Not anymore! Now you need to ask permission for a ton of items, and many are no longer available. Make sure you check permissions at least every 3 months, otherwise you may find your granted permissions are no longer, well, granted, or even accessible.

Here’s a link to everything you can get: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/facebook-login/permissions/

In my case, to access the Profile photo, name information, and some other basic items, I chose:

  • public_profile
  • email
  • user_photos
  • user_about_me

I probably don’t need all these right now, but I may in the future. I figured I’d ask ahead of time.

Once you have your list, continue to the fun coding part…

Enable the Facebook Provider in Startup.Auth.cs

If you haven’t already, you’ll need to enable the Facebook provider via Startup.Auth.cs. Make sure you do this *after* any cookie authentication, so “normal” username/password logins are serviced before Facebook takes over. This should already be the case, as the default ASP.NET MVC template includes the many optional providers afterwards by default.

I suggest keeping the App ID and Secret in your config file – or at least out of code – so you can swap for differing environments as necessary. The code snippet below enables Facebook authentication, and specifies the profile fields for which we’ll be asking read permission:

You don’t have to use what I chose – it’s just what I needed for my particular case. Facebook *does* change allowed permissions and profile item visibility somewhat often. Stay on top of their developer changes – otherwise your site login may unexpectedly break.

// Enable Facebook authentication with permission grant request.
// Otherwise, you just get the user's name.
var options = new FacebookAuthenticationOptions();
options.AppId = ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["Facebook.AppId"];
options.AppSecret = ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["Facebook.AppSecret"];
options.Scope.Add("public_profile");
options.Scope.Add("email");
options.Scope.Add("user_photos");
options.Scope.Add("user_about_me");
app.UseFacebookAuthentication(options);

Install the Facebook NuGet Package

In order to easily get access to the Facebook data, I used the Facebook.NET library. It’s easy enough to install:

Install-Package Facebook

Note: I used version 7.0.6 in this example. You should be able to find the latest version and changelog at https://www.nuget.org/packages/Facebook/7.0.10-beta

Handle the Facebook External Login Callback in AccountController.cs

Once Facebook has been configured, all requests from your website will direct to Facebook, where it will ask permission, and, if granted, will redirect back to the ExternalLoginCallback action in the Account controller. It is here that I suggest you retrieve the data you’ve requested from Facebook. You’ll then modify the associated ExternalLoginConfirmation View with fields to correct or remove any information from Facebook, then continue with the account creation process on your website. That’s the part where you’ll populate the ApplicationUser entity, or whatever you decided to call it.

It’s relatively simple, as shown in the code below. The steps are as follows:

  1. Get the Facebook OAuth token with a simple HttpClient call
  2. Make the request for Profile details using the Facebook.NET library
  3. Optionally, download the Profile photo and save it somewhere

Yes, I could split this out – refactor as you see fit, and feel free to share any optimizations.

Below is the change to ExternalLoginCallback to grab the data from Facebook after the redirect:

ExternalLoginCallback Code

If you’d like to get the profile image, below is an example:

GetProfileImage Code

 

Moving Forward

I hope this article has helped answer your Facebook integration questions. If you would like additional details, please post in the comments, or message me on Twitter: @Auri

Thank you!

I was recently included on a thread with a high school student considering programming as a career. Fellow developers at Eleven Fifty were sharing their insight. I liked my pre-caffeinated contribution. I hope you enjoy as well.

Aaron,
I echo Tiffany’s sentiment. I’d be delighted to be more interactive with you on questions. Funny – I think I went to school with a Rickleff.
Anyway… I *loved* computers growing up. Still, until I was in high school, I didn’t want to be a programmer, which I later learned was really a “software engineer.” I thought they were just unhealthy, unsocial slobs that worked long, grueling hours, with pizza their only food group. Well, that was television and movies, at least. I found programming and problem solving came easily, and I liked making the computer do whatever it was I wanted, if I only spent the time. I didn’t start out with programming as a career – I started with technology, being an analyst and writer at a consumer electronics research firm. It wasn’t until my friend [and employer] challenged me to write a program for the company, and I accomplished it by putting my hobby to good use, that I started thinking programming could be a career. I learned I could make a living with my favorite hobby. That’s fun, and freeing. It’s like not working, even when it feels like work.
So what will your career look like? Software engineering makes you somewhat of a white collar worker – the pay is higher, and you’re always working with intelligent people – not that you’ll always admit that. It’s more of a “white collar t-shirt” job, because you’re required to be both a thinker and a creator at once, which can be messy. Ask yourself if you like to make things better, and if you think about how to actually do it. Even if you don’t have the skill yet – that will grow over time, and you’ll have to fail… a lot – that two-punch thinking combination is what will get things done, and make you enjoy your job. Did I mention failing? It happens all the time. You’re always building things that don’t exist, based on ideas written in a few sentences by people who don’t know how to do what you’ll be able to do. Like the beautiful buildings you see when walking, to paintings at shows, to jokes you hear for the first time – all those are the final result after all the failures to make them reality before. Building designs start with an idea out of thin air, go through a billion revisions, and finally get built. Jokes usually start from trying variations that don’t get a blink, to the final one that makes an audience laugh. But the comic started the line of thought, from thin air, from inspiration, and from thinking about how people think. The same goes with programming.
The lesson: Fail quickly, then move on to the next approach.
That being said, I’ve found the best parts of programming are the community, and what it leads to.
First, Community. Software engineering is like medicine. You’re not going to know all the practices. You’ll be good at one, or a few, but can never be good at all. Yet, you’ll meet brilliant people that can fill in the gaps in your knowledge, and you feel even better when you do the same. As engineers, we inspire other engineers. Look at Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Nicholai Tesla, Sergei Brin, Larry Page – all their bios mention influencers. Nobody did it on their own. They all had help.
Second, What it Leads To. Coming up with ideas all the time has its side effects. The most prevalent? A constant stream of ideas on how to make those cool computers, whether they have a keyboard or not – phones for example – do more stuff. You’ll have ideas. Lots of them. And you have the power to make your ideas real. You’ll fail in bringing them to reality, often. Like medicine, or any career really, you’ll get better over time, tuning your craft. You’ll release your ideas, maybe as apps, maybe as web sites, maybe just making your own projects millions of people use – like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and countless others you think of having the best and brightest. Those companies are full of people who aspired, as you do, to become software engineers at some point in their lives. Those companies were also started by software and hardware engineers. Heck, Apple practically invented the personal computer, and the software engineer that wanted to program it.
Gosh, that’s a lot, and I need another refill of coffee. I hope to discuss further, if you’d like.
Thanks and Best,
-Auri
Appending what a fellow developer and instructor answered to the same student:
What your career looks like in 5 or 10 years is a very personal choice.  If you are a guy looking for a desk job with great benefits in a big company, that’s going to look very different than if you have an entrepreneurial spark that leads you to develop your own products or freelance.  I can tell you that you need to talk to all types of software professionals to get this knowledge and find out what excites you most.  The best way to do so is to attend networking events.  Verge is a fun one for entrepreneurs.  I believe Auri can refer you to a few great .NET networking groups.
After 5 years of MY career, I found myself climbing a technical corporate ladder inside of Motorola and being very content with that.  But after 10 years (still at the same company), I grew restless and started my own freelance firm on the side while also transitioning from test to architecture within the big company.  And after 15 years, I found myself appreciating the big picture of software (sales / pm / business dev) more than I did the nitty gritty code and new technologies.
As far as highs and lows in a coding career… that’s a bit more finite.  There’s a huge high when you can point at something and say, “I did that! And it’s AWESOME!”  And an ever bigger high when your peers and mentors do the same.  And for every coder, there’s a dark dark low when you run into a problem that you just CAN’T figure out.  You feel alone, you feel stupid, and you feel like a failure.  As a coder, you’re going to need to expect those situations, not fear them, just grow and learn from them.
Hope this helps.  Feel free to find me & Auri at Eleven Fifty and chat about this stuff during the time you’re here.
Thanks,
Tiffany Trusty

I recently ran into a need to use the LAME MP3 encoder in a customer’s website. Problem was, once I deployed to Azure, I received an error of “Unable to load DLL libmp3lame.32.dll”. Uh oh! “But it’s in the bin folder!” I screamed silently at Starbucks. So, I binged the issue and found a good answer on StackOverflow. I’m sharing here because it helped unstick me, and I imagine others may be running to this issue with libraries other than LAME.

I ended up adding the function to my Global.asax, in addition to importing namespaces System.IO and System.Linq:

/// <summary>
/// Updates PATH variable in hosting instance to allow referring to items in this project's /bin folder.
/// Very helpful with Azure.
/// </summary>
public static void CheckAddBinPath()
{
    // find path to 'bin' folder
    var binPath = Path.Combine(new string[] { AppDomain.CurrentDomain.BaseDirectory, "bin" });
    // get current search path from environment
    var path = Environment.GetEnvironmentVariable("PATH") ?? "";
 
    // add 'bin' folder to search path if not already present
    if (!path.Split(Path.PathSeparator).Contains(binPath, StringComparer.CurrentCultureIgnoreCase))
    {
        path = string.Join(Path.PathSeparator.ToString(), new string[] { path, binPath });
        Environment.SetEnvironmentVariable("PATH", path);
    }
}

Then in Application start I simply added:

// Sometimes files aren't loaded properly from bin. Hint to the app to load from /bin, too.
CheckAddBinPath();

I hope that helps!