Entries from Sep 2005 ↓

Visual C++ and LINQ - is it Needed?

Esther Schindler who is the editor of the email newsletter DevSource Update recently wrote about Visual C++ and Microsoft’s LINQ Project that adds the ability to use SQL code directly in VB and C# programs (emphasis mine):

Ever since the PDC, developers and the press have been talking about the LINQ technology that Microsoft showed off. The overwhelming response appears to be positive, and from all I can tell (I haven’t taken the time to read the tech docs) it seems to be justified. But I can’t help it if I see the plot holes in a movie, and it’s my job to ask the questions that everybody is trying not to ask. After all, what we saw at the PDC wasn’t a product. It wasn’t even a technology preview. We (rather gratefully) got a peek at what the Smart Folks at Microsoft are scribbling on their white boards. This is the time to point out any problems — when they can be incorporated into the final design documents.

For instance, I carefully noted that, in all the LINQ demos, nobody so much as mentioned C++. (A Microsoft PR person later told me that each language group sets its own priorities, and the Visual C++ team hasn’t decided yet where LINQ will fit.) Also, everybody has asked programmers about the wondrous capabilities of LINQ; what do the DBAs think? I realize that DBAs and programmers rarely drink at the same bars, but still…!

My response to her concerns about LINQ and Visual C++ is:

You should use the right tool for the right job. Anyone programming databases with C++ is almost certainly using the wrong tool. VB.NET and C# are much better tools for doing database development. Hopefully this is so obvious I don’t have to explain why.

She continued with (emphasis mine):

The larger question, though, is about the much-vaunted ability for a Visual Studio programmer to access databases without knowing SQL or XML particularly well. I’m wary of anything that promises “ease of use” by assuring someone that it’s okay to remain ignorant. I remember, far too well, how the computer industry promised to make computers “idiot-proof.” The result? We now have a lot of idiots using computers. Sometimes, making things simpler _isn’t_ a good idea.

I’m not saying that LINQ is a bad thing. Far from it: I suspect it’s an elegant solution of the “Duh, why didn’t we think of this before?” variety. However, this is the time to raise the uncomfortable questions, and I don’t see very many people doing so.

Uh, as far as I can see, LINQ doesn’t hide SQL or XML, it just gives a much cleaner syntax for accessing that can be syntax checked at compile time.  A developer would still need to write SQL and to understand XML. For example, this looks like to me it requires knowing SQL:

Dim custs() As Customer = …
Dim waCusts = Select c.Name, c.City From c In custs Where c.State = “WA”

Did Esther really look at LINQ before writing this editorial?  Maybe people aren’t asking the questions because the questions are not relevent?

Google’s Personalized Home Page Feature Request: Dynamically-generated Bookmarks

Ever since I first started browsing the web, I’ve wished for a home page that would keep track of where I surfed and then show me a list of dynamically-generated bookmarks that are in descending order of the ones I use most. For example, if I go to Google News a lot, news.google.com should dynamically show up in my list. After all, why not use the fact I go to these sites a lot to help me get there more quickly?

Now that I’ve started using Google’s Personalized Home Page for each of my machine’s browser home page, I see a light at the end of the tunnel as they could (probably) easily implment this to enhance their list of static bookmarks.  Of course it would need a few other features, such as the ability for me to say "do not include this URL" in case I wanted to keep the fact away from my wife that I visit playboy.com a lot (well, actually, I don’t and I’m not married; it was just an example. :)

It would also be nice to be able to "pin" certain URLs at the top, and then allow me to order those URLS. Better yet, let give me a link that allows me to transfer them to the list of static bookmarks, and then omit any URLs in my static bookmarks from my dynamically-generated list.

Lastly, as with static URLs, it would be nice if it would let me label my urls so that I could have "Google News" displayed in my dynamically generated list instead of "news.google.com."

Anyway, here’s hoping someone working Google’s Personalized Home Page project sees this, and/or someone at Microsoft who might build a better service than Google’s in the near future via a combination of Internet Explorer & MSN (although given Microsoft’s recent history of beating Google with better solutions, I kind of doubt it that ltater will happen.)

Google’s Personalized Home Page is the one that finally won me over!

For years I’ve kept an HTML file of links in the My Document directory called "MyHomePage.htm" because nobody ever created a home page service that worked for me.  Well, Google finally has and hence I’ve switched all my different machine’s browsers to point to my Google Personalized Home Page:

My Google Home Page

Why do I like it?  It’s clean and simple and let’s me easily create a list of bookmarks, plus it lists my recent Google searches and lets me add other things like links to news sites and/or any RSS feed out there. It’s by no means perfect yet, but it was good enough to get a jaded old hack like me to switch, and it’s only version 1.0!

Check it out and create your own Google Personalized Home Page at http://www.google.com/ig