August 2012 Blog Posts

My Toddler: Party Rock and OCD

Phoenix is not quite two, but in her words, "I big." She is starting to become very independent, or at least she tries to be.

Phoenix in her Batman raincoat

In some cases she doesn't even want you to read her a bedtime story. She'll do that herself. If you try to sit next to her or point things out, she'll take the book and move somewhere else.

She really likes music and dancing, and there are rules around that you must follow. If she's dancing, you need to get up and dance. If you sit down, she'll come over and grab your hand to pull you back up so you're dancing again. (She says, "pulllllllll" as she pulls you.) If you stop dancing and just stand, you get scolded ("Daddy! Dance! Go!"). For a while dancing amounted to bouncing up and down and clapping. Now it's more of a "march" where you take big steps and swing your arms.

Her favorite music is electronic with a heavy disco sort of beat, particularly the LMFAO album Sorry for Party Rocking. We listen to that nearly every day in the car on the way to day care. The conversation goes something like this:

Phoenix: Daddy, I want rock. [points at the radio]

Me: You want to listen to the radio?

Phoenix: OK*. I want rock.

Me: Party rock?

Phoenix: OK.

* Phoenix only really says "OK" or "no." Sometimes you'll get "yeah," but generally it's "OK" for "yes." I think she gets this from Jenn, who basically has "maybe" and "no."

I scroll to find the album and start playing it, at which point any bad morning changes to smiles and clapping and giggling. She really loves her party rock. She can't even wait between songs - that three second pause? - before you hear, "I want rock!" Don't try to put something else on, she'll tell you no. In some cases if she doesn't recognize the first few notes, even if it's just another LMFAO song she doesn't hear often, she'll say no. She wants that specific album.

We had that conversation this morning, but when we finally got to day care she saw we were there and started crying. "No, Daddy! I want rock!" Don't turn that party rock off, there's gonna be a problem. She knows what she wants.

This morning she knew she didn't want socks. Some days she does, some days not. When she doesn't, she'll try to put the socks back in the drawer after you get them out. We took the socks downstairs to put them on her. The whole time, she was acting like there was something upstairs she wanted, but we were trying to get ready so kept telling her no, it's time to get ready to go.

Eventually it came time to put the socks on and she had a total meltdown like we packed the socks with acid before putting them on her. Fine, no socks. We pulled the socks off and she grabbed them both and pointed upstairs. "Back." She wanted to put them back. She walked Jenn up the stairs, went into her room, and put the socks back in the drawer. Then she picked up a pair of socks that didn't make it into the laundry bin and put them in the bin. Finally all was right with the world. I'm guessing that nagging thing she wanted upstairs was to put those socks in the bin...

...which means I successfully passed along my OCD to the toddler. A place for everything and everything in its place. Jenn, you're outnumbered!

NDepend 4 - CQLinq, NDepend.API, and Beyond

I recently updated to NDepend 4. I got an early preview of the sweetness that is CQLinq (code query using LINQ syntax) so I couldn't wait to dive into the full deal.

For new users of NDepend, the "getting started" part of things isn't too different from NDepend 3 - same download/unzip/run xcopy-style installer, same UI, same super-robust reporting. I wrote a good entry on getting started with NDepend 3 and most of that still applies here so I won't rehash it.

NDepend home screen

For existing users of NDepend, CQLinq is really the big deal in this latest release. That alone is really worth the price of admission. But there are also some other cool things in there. Let's take a look.

First, CQLinq. If you've written code queries in the old SQL style of syntax, you'll love the new LINQ style.

Let's say you want to find all the methods that start with "To" in your project (like "ToString()" or "ToDecimal()"). The old SQL style query looks like this:

SELECT METHODS WHERE NameLike "^To.*"

The new CQLinq looks like this:

from m in Methods where m.NameLike("^To.*") select m

Or you can use the extension method style of LINQ syntax if you like that better (which I do):

Methods.Where(m => m.NameLike("^To.*"))

In this simple example it may not be too clear what the power is. But if you look at the result set, you see both your methods and methods from the framework assemblies you referenced. Let's work in another of the features of NDepend - analyzing "JustMyCode":

JustMyCode.Methods.Where(m => m.NameLike("^To.*"))

Now the result set is just the methods from your code. Oh, but that includes some crazy ToString methods that the compiler generated. Let's remove those, too, and maybe even order the result set for easier reading.

JustMyCode.Methods.Where(m => m.NameLike("^To.*") && !m.IsGeneratedByCompiler).OrderBy(m => m.Name).Select(m => m)

The results of the query look like this:

Demo query results in NDepend

Now, that's pretty sweet.

All of the base queries have been rewritten in CQLinq so you can really see some great uses. Here's the built-in query that checks to see if your constructor is calling any virtual methods:

warnif count > 0
from t in Application.Types where 
   t.IsClass &&
  !t.IsGeneratedByCompiler &&
  !t.IsSealed

from ctor in t.Constructors 
let virtualMethodsCalled = from mCalled in ctor.MethodsCalled
                           where mCalled.IsVirtual &&
                                (mCalled.ParentType == t ||
                                 t.DeriveFrom(mCalled.ParentType))
                           select mCalled
where virtualMethodsCalled.Count() > 0

select new { ctor , 
             virtualMethodsCalled,
             t.DerivedTypes }

You can really dig into your code like this. I find this way easier to use than the previous SQL-style syntax.

Now here's the bit that sort of blows me away:

You can use this API to write your own custom analysis tools.

This is also a new thing with the 4.0 version of NDepend. NDepend comes with a bunch of sample applications that show you how to use the NDepend API. There's also plenty of online documentation. I will warn you, this isn't for the faint of heart. If you've ever written a custom FxCop rule, it looks to be roughly that level of complexity. The trouble isn't in running the CQLinq to get your analysis results - that's the easy part. The complexity is in getting the analysis results in the first place. You'll most likely want to make heavy use of the sample code and "borrow" from it when making your own tools.

Once you build the sample app, you get a console app with some old-school console menus that show you different options.

NDepend Power Tools Menu

I thought I'd try the duplicate code detector. Here's the output running it on one of my projects (I had to blur a few things out, but you get the idea):

NDepend duplicate code finder

Not pretty, but you can see the power there. You could do all sorts of things with that - Visual Studio add-ins, PowerShell scripts for analyzing across solutions... all sorts of ideas. (Keep in mind that with CQL and CQLinq you can basically replace FxCop rules with queries. Using the API is primarily for more in-depth analysis tools. My point in saying the relative difficulty is around the difficulty of writing for FxCop is that with FxCop there's a lot of interesting custom stuff you have to learn to wire things up - the object hierarchy, the way you get analysis results, the way you insert yourself into the process, etc. It appears there is roughly that level of learning to be done to write a power tool using NDepend.API. That said, if you're just interested in doing analysis and querying... you can just write CQLinq pretty easily inside NDepend and skip the API part.)

With the power of CQL and CQLinq comes a little bit of a learning curve in the form of some hard-to-diagnose gotchas when things aren't finding what you expect. I found a couple while crafting the above example query:

  • You have to add a Select after an OrderBy or you get an error. Notice in that last example query I order the list of methods by name. In standard LINQ, you order it and you're done. In CQLinq, you get an error telling you that you need a Select after that. So... add a Select and you get the ordered list as you expect.
  • IsGeneratedByCompiler doesn't mean "has the CompilerGeneratedAttribute." If your application has, say, some generated web proxy classes or some things that have the [CompilerGenerated] attribute on them, you won't find them by using the IsGeneratedByCompiler predicate. IsGeneratedByCompiler only finds things that really were generated by the compiler - iterators, anonymous methods, that sort of thing.

Learning about NDepend takes effort. It's not something you'll just "figure out" without watching the videos or reading the docs. And there's a lot of documentation. And a lot of videos. It's thick, it's technical, and it's hard to get through. In some cases, the language/phrasing of the documentation belies that the author isn't a native English speaker, which makes it sometimes a bit harder to parse for a native speaker like myself. Stick with it, though. It's worth the effort, especially if you're working on a larger enterprise project. Not only is it a great way to learn about NDepend, it also helps you learn about good code quality and metrics used to analyze code.

Speaking of doc, you can find it everywhere. Even in tooltips. Hover over a part of a CQLinq query and you get doc for that element:

NDepend support is really good. I think Patrick does it all by himself, so when you ask a question, you get an answer straight from the source. We worked through a recent weird issue and resolved it almost in real-time.

The UI continues to be a little confusing. Each version gets better, guiding you to steps like "what to do next," and given the robustness and complexity of what NDepend is doing I don't know how I'd do it better... but there are still little things that get me. For example, I updated the location of analysis report output and wanted to re-run the report, but couldn't find the option to do that. It turns out the ability to re-run the analysis isn't in the Analysis menu - it's behind this little button in the bottom right corner of the window.

The button in the bottom right corner of the window is really important!

IntelliSense in the query window can sometimes be frustrating. Maybe I type too fast, but I find that sometimes it autocompletes when I didn't want it to, or the cursor "jumps around" as I backspace. This isn't new in 4.0 and I can't consistently reproduce it.

The mouse scroll wheel doesn't do what you think it does. Normally in a window with a scroll bar, scrolling the mouse wheel will scroll the window up and down. Zoom is usually done by holding Ctrl and scrolling. In the Dependency Matrix view the mouse wheel zooms without holding Ctrl (even though there's a scroll bar and I generally want to scroll more than I want to zoom in that window). In other views, the mouse wheel does nothing - even if there is both zoom and scroll available. Definitely takes some getting used to.

My NUMBER ONE problem with NDepend, though, persists to this day: You STILL can't use environment variables in framework folder paths. For example, I may have Windows installed on my C:\ drive but moved Program Files to D:\. If I set up an NDepend project on that machine, I won't be able to use it as part of my build because the build server doesn't have the same setup. I've reported this to NDepend support, so they're aware, but it's still never been fixed. It's a small thing, but in an environment where you truly need NDepend - a large, enterprise shop with build server farms and lots of developers and architects - this is a huge oversight.

Despite all that, NDepend is a totally valuable tool. If you think your code is good now, run it through NDepend and dig in. You can make your good code great.

Full disclosure: I got a free personal license from Patrick at NDepend. However, we have also purchased several licenses at work and make use of it to great benefit.

UPDATE: After the initial posting of this article, I got some answers on how to do some of the things I was stuck on, so I added that info.

Use CodeRush Templates to Help Write XML API Documentation

I write a lot of API documentation. I do it to help the people consuming my code... and to help me a year from now when I have to come back and can't remember how the thing works. I have CR_Documentor out there to help you see what your docs will look like rendered, but sometimes you also need help getting the content right.

Your first stop should be GhostDoc to get some basic bits in place. GhostDoc doesn't actually write good documentation, but it can help you get things started. After that, though, you may need some easy ways to get some of the fancier tags in there or a little bit of standard shorthand to get things in place. That's where CodeRush templates come in.

CodeRush templates are like magic macro expansions. You type a little text and hit the expansion key (usually a space or tab, pending on what you have configured) and magic happens. I say magic because you can do a lot with templates beyond just expanding some text. You can add required namespace registrations to a file... you can do different things based on context (are you in the code editor or in the designer? HTML or XML?)... you can insert content from your clipboard... Lots of stuff.

You can set up some pretty nice templates for helping you write standardized documentation. Here's how.

First, open up the CodeRush Options window (Ctrl+Shift+Alt+O or DevExpress -> Options from the Visual Studio menu). On the left side, in the tree view, expand the "Editor" node and select "Templates."

At the bottom of the Options window, select the "*Neutral*" language. Do this so you can add the expansions to work for both VB.NET and C# and keep them together. Otherwise you have to switch back and forth between the two languages every time you want to modify or add a template.

At this point, stop for a second. I'm going to walk you through how to make your own templates, but at the end of the article I'm also going to let you download some I've already made to get you jumpstarted. If you download/import the ones I made, you don't need to do this next step where you create the "XML Doc Comment" templates folder. Importing mine will create this for you.

Create a new folder to hold your XML Doc Comment templates [if you're not downloading/importing mine first]. Right-click somewhere in the middle tree-view area, select "New Root Category..." and give it a good descriptive name like... "XML Doc Comments."

You can make any other sort of hierarchy in there that you want. If you import my templates, you'll see some folders for canned documentation blocks, some inline expansions, list templates, and some general standard block comment types.

Now I'll walk you through creation of a simple template. One of the templates in my pack will expand the word null in an XML doc comment to <see langword="null" /> so you get the proper expansion/highlighting when it renders. I'll show you how to create that and set the appropriate values so you don't end up with XML doc comments in the middle of your code.

Select a folder for a new XML comment template and click the "New Template" button. Type the key combination you want to expand. In this case, put "null" in there.

Fill in the "comment" for the expansion and the actual text you want to see when it's expanded. Also check the "case-sensitive" box because you don't want "Null" or "NULL" expanding.

The last and most important thing is the context for the expansion. You want your template to only run when:

  • The active language is C# (you can set up a similar "Nothing" expansion for VB, which comes with my template set).
  • There is no selection in the editor.
  • You are typing code (not in the designer).
  • You are working in an XML doc comment (not in executable code).

To accomplish this, there are three boxes to check in the context tree view below your macro expansion:

  • Editor/Code/InXmlDocComment
  • Editor/Selection/No Selection
  • Language/C#

There is a very, very rich context selection mechanism in CodeRush, so I won't show you the entire tree view with all of the boxes selected - I'll just show you the C# box here, but you need to check all three boxes.

Click "OK" to save your template and close the Options window.

Now, in a C# code editor, start an XML doc comment like this:

/// <summary>
/// Template test for null
/// </summary>
public class TestClass
{
}

Press "space" after the keyword null in that XML doc comment. You should see it expand to:

/// <summary>
/// Template test for <see langword="null" />
/// </summary>
public class TestClass
{
}

Pretty simple, right? Now you can just type your doc comments and not have to think about expanding that markup.

Like I mentioned before, I'm going to let you download some templates I use.

First, download the zip of the templates. It has one XML file in it - the exported set of templates. Unzip that file somewhere you'll remember. Now, in the Options window, after you select Editor/Templates and set the language to "*Neutral*" (as outlined in the steps above), right-click in the center tree view area and select "Import Templates..."

Select the XML file you downloaded and unzipped. (Don't select the ZIP file, that won't work. You need to unzip it first.) Once you've done that, you'll see a bunch of templates available to you:

There is a lot here, so I recommend you explore and see what's there, what's useful, etc. Conventions I used in naming templates:

  • Documentation blocks/elements are generally prefixed with "d" (for "documentation").
    • "ds" - document <summary> content.
    • "dx" - document <exception> content.
    • "dp" - document <param> content.
  • One-liner tags just start with "x" (for XML) because there's no content.
  • Keywords that expand are the exact keyword (e.g., "null") so you don't have to think about it.
  • List template expansions start with "l".

Some particular highlights I use almost daily:

  • dxargnull expands to standard <exception type="System.ArgumentNullException"> documentation for when a parameter is null including a placeholder for parameter reference info.
  • dxargempty expands to standard <exception type="System.ArgumentException"> documentation for when a parameter is empty including a placeholder for parameter reference info.
  • <see langword="..." /> expansions for all of the standard C# language words (null, abstract, true, false, sealed, static, virtual) and VB.NET language words (CanOverride, False, MustInherit, Nothing, NotInheritable, Shared, True).
  • xseealsome expands to a <seealso cref="..." /> link where the link destination is the current type you're working on. xseeme does the same thing, but <see cref="..." />
  • lb starts you a bullet list with one item.
  • lt starts you a table with a header and one item.
  • li creates a new list item with both the <term> and <description> elements.

Again, you'll only see these things expand in XML API doc comment context, so you shouldn't worry about crazy things happening in your code - it'll just help you write doc faster. And if I have templates you don't like, you can always import what I've got and delete the stuff you don't want. It should all import into the same folder, so it won't "corrupt" your other settings.

Tips for writing your own doc comment templates:

  • Pick a consistent set of template naming schemes. I outlined mine, above, but if you don't like that one, pick something different. It's good if it's consistent, though, because if you have a lot of templates that you don't use daily, it can be easy to forget what you have. Consistency means you can possibly "guess" if you already have it and you may well be right.
  • Copy/paste contexts. Once you have a working template set up, you don't need to always manually check all the boxes to set up the context. When you create a new template, right-click on an existing working template and select "Copy Context," then right-click on your brand new template and select "Paste Context." All the boxes will be checked for you.
  • Pay attention to the little "Command" dropdown beneath the "Expansion" box. It inserts things that can help you out in your template. For example, selecting "Caret" in there will place a special marker «Caret» into your template. After your template finishes expanding, this is where the cursor will end up and where you'll start typing. The "Paste" command can insert data you have on the clipboard. Make use of things like this to make powerful templates. I use many of these in my templates.

Finally, if you're looking for tips on writing good XML documentation, check out my previous article on the subject.

[Download my XML Doc Comment templates]

Windows 8 Navigation and Hyper-V

I had a tiny breakdown yesterday where I finally got Windows 8 installed (on a Hyper-V VM) and hit a massive "someone moved my cheese" moment where I basically couldn't figure out how to do anything. The Windows key wasn't doing anything, I couldn't figure out just the right spot to right-click... bad times. My Google-fu totally failed me, too.

This morning, with a fresh set of eyes, suddenly looking for the same search terms yielded two super-helpful articles. For those in the same [late] boat as me...