FREE Kids Programming Courses

Pluralsight have released a series of FREE courses aimed at teaching Kids to program computers. It is great that Pluralsight have offered these courses without the need for a Pluralsight subscription.

Teaching Kids to Program Computers
Teaching Kids to Program Computers

The current courses on offer are :

Teaching Kids to Program

Learning to Program with Scratch

Learning to Build Apps with App Inventor

Learn to Program: Kodu Kingdom Defense

Being a parent myself I think that Pluralsight offering these courses is great. My daughter is 5 and starting to get curious about technology, my 2 year old son will most likely be the same as he gets older. She can already command an IPad better than I would expect.

In the UK, the school syllabus is changing to incorporate programming into the curriculum and programming with Scratch is one of the tools that is going to be used, so this course already fits into the UK education system. In fact it would be a very good course for the teachers as-well, as I know a few teacher who are struggling with it a bit.


I am a little late to the party with this one, but Microsoft recently announced the next version of ASP.NET MVC which will be version 6 and is code named vNext. What they are doing here is very cool and represents quite a major overhaul of the technology.


Here are the main features summarised :

  • Optimized for Cloud and on premise servers.
  • ASP.NET MVC and Web API have been merged into a single programming model.
  • New JSON based project structure.
  • No need to recompile for every change. Just hit save and refresh the browser.
    • Compilation done with the new Roslyn real-time compiler.
  • Dependency injection out of the box.
  • Side by side deployment of the runtime and framework with your application.
  • Everything packaged with NuGet, Including the .NET runtime itself.
  • vNext is Open Source via the .NET Foundation and is taking public contributions.
  • vNext (and Rosyln) also runs on Mono, on both Mac and Linux today.

I especially like the fact that WebAPI is being merged with MVC as this will make a much easier and cleaner framework to use for full stack development. Rest based API’s are now pretty much the in-thing when it comes to programming your back-end, so it is good to see that Microsoft are making things easier there.

Smoke Tester 0.04 Released

I have released a new version of the Smoke Tester framework. This adds numerous new features such as :

  • Cut and Paste in the test editor.
  • Test editor is multi threaded, so that tests don’t block the UI thread.
  • Enable/Disable flag for tests.
  • New versions of the File Exsts and Assembly Version tests that except files lists.
Smoke Test Config Editor
Smoke Test Config Editor

Smoke Tester is a testing framework that allows you to easily put together tests to be executed after you deploy your software to a test environment, or production. This is also known as post deployment verification testing.

The tool is used to test that a system has deployed correctly and that any dependencies are available,, such as network IP addresses, ports, database connections You can also check that config files have had their correct environment specific data set after the deployment.

I’m Now a Pluralsight Author

I am really pleased to announce that I have recently completed the Pluralsight Audition process and have been accepted as a new training author. I will be working with an editor at Pluralsight over the next week or two to agree what my first course will be.

Pluralsight : Hardcore Developer Training
Pluralsight : Hardcore Developer Training

I am quite excited about this, as through this blog, I have been trying to help people both from a technical and career progression / self development standpoint. Also, the creative process of constructing a course is quite fun. I will blog about the process once I have completed my first course.

Part of the audition process required me to produce a 10 minute course using a decent condenser microphone (Samson C01U) and using Camtasia Studio for capturing and editing all the footage. My background in music composition and sound design, meant that the editing process was already quite familiar for me.

I look forward to getting stuck into producing the first course, and hopefully it will be done within the next couple of months.

A Software Developer’s Guide to HTTP

I came across an excellent series of articles on a Software Developers Guide to HTTP over on Scott Allens blog, Ode To Code.

Http Programming

The series covers subjects such as Resources, Messages, Connections, Architecture and Security. It’s a good worthwhile course. The links to each part are here :

Part I: Resources
Part II: Messages
Part III: Connections
Part IV: Architecture
Part V: Security

Scott us also a Pluralsight author who has developed some very good courses on web development and general development.

Self Promotion for Developers in a Competitive Market

In today’s competitive job market it is more important than ever for developers to be able to market and promote themselves more effectively to stand out in the crowd. There are many ways that you can do this on-top of just being a great developer. This is something I realised my self over the last 2 years.

The best tactic you can start with is to try and create a public persona, and there are plenty of ways you can do this, via blogging, micro blogging (twitter), pod-casting, screen-casting, or contributing to web communities like stack overflow.

Whatever medium you choose to adopt, the overall theme is that you are trying to help people by sharing your knowledge. This could be via in-depth technical articles, commentary and op-ed pieces, or shorter technical articles explaining how you solve a particular problem. You can pretty much guarantee that if a piece of information was useful to you, then it will be useful for someone else.

Get Involved - Online Training Course for Developers
Get Involved – Online Training Course for Developers

There is an excellent introductory training course about this very subject by Scott Hanselman and Rob Conery on Pluralsight called Get Involved! – Online Training Course for Developers. What is even better is that this course is completely free to watch, so you don’t need to already have a Pluralsight account, although I recommend getting one as it is a fantastic training resource. The course is an 1 hour and 49 minutes long and covers the following subjects.

Funny Code Comments

Funny Code Comments
Funny Code Comments

I came across this StackOverflow page asking what the best comments were that people had encountered. Some of the replies are hilarious. I particularly like :

// somedev1 -  6/7/02 Adding temporary tracking of Login screen
// somedev2 -  5/22/07 Temporary my ass
//When I wrote this, only God and I understood what I was doing
//Now, God only knows
stop(); // Hammertime!
// Replaces with spaces the braces in cases where braces in places cause stasis 
   $str = str_replace(array("\{","\}")," ",$str);

Maybe I need to get out more!

Velocity is Not a Goal or Target

I have released a course on Pluralsight called Agile Fundamentals that talks about Agile Software Development in detail.

I was listening to an episode of the DotNetRocks podcast about Agile Metrics. There was an interview with Michael ‘Doc’ Norton about his experiences figuring out the right metrics to measure for the productivity of a development team. The basic issue discussed was that Velocity is a dangerous metric to rely on as a goal or target.

Agile Velocity is a Dangerous Target
Agile Velocity is a Dangerous Target

Velocity is a measure of units over time, so in an agile iteration or sprint, that would be the number of story points completed in the iteration. This is a dangerous metric because it is misleading to management. One week, your team may complete 10 story points in the iteration. Management may then say,

“Well, that’s great, if you can better that to say 12, we might finish early.”

The team, then starts their next sprint, aiming to complete 12 points, but they end up only completing 5. This is like a red rag to a bull to management, but this could be a valid scenario. The velocity of 12 from the previous sprint may have been achieved because all the development tasks where contain within the development team. If as part of the next spring you need input from other teams or departments, then this could affect your ability to get work done as planned. This just one example of an external influence affecting velocity, you could have people go of sick, on holiday, or anything else that can happen that is out of the teams control.

It is because of these external influences that the velocity metric becomes a bad metric to rely on. There is just too much variability in the numbers from sprint to sprint. This doesn’t mean you should ignore velocity completely, but managers should not ask teams to hit targets based on velocity.

Not Limiting Yourself In Your Programming Career

I was watching an interesting conference video by Trisha Gee at the Goto Conference where she was giving lots of career advice, and one bit really struck a chord with me as it essentially outlined my philosophy on my career progression.

What Trisha talked about was not limiting your career by being type cast into one particular area or discipline, and she gave examples where she switched from web development and went into server side development across multiple business domains, and this is exactly what I have done. I did this because I believe it opens your eyes to different ways of thinking, new technologies, and working with different types of people.

Training : Foundation CSS

In this article I have collated a few training links about the Foundation CSS framework. I will keep adding to this page as I find other useful free resources. If you have any videos or articles that you feel would be useful here then please let me know in the comments and I will add them to the post. I would like it to be an archive of good material.

Foundation CSS Framework
Foundation CSS Framework

Foundation CSS

Foundation for Beginners: Getting Started

Foundation CSS : Getting Started

Getting started with Foundation 5 – Understanding HTML Markup and Installations

Zurb Foundations Basics Part 1

Zurb Foundations Basics Part 2

Zurb Foundations Basics Part 3

Responsive design – CSS Frameworks

ZURB Foundation – Jonathan Smiley at Schmonference Conf

%d bloggers like this: