I know the answer (it's 42)

A blog on coding, .NET, .NET Compact Framework and life in general....

December, 2009

Posts
  • I know the answer (it's 42)

    Some things I have learnt about SW development

    • 2 Comments
    Kolkata Trip 2009

    Working in the developer division is very exciting because I can relate so well with the customers. However, that is also an issue. You relate so well that you tend to evolve some strong opinions that can cloud your view. While working in the Visual Studio Team System team and now in the .NET Compact Framework team I have learnt some lessons. I thought I’d share some of them

    I am not *the* customer (or rather the only customer)
    Even though I represent the customer in different avatars (sometimes as a developer, sometimes as an office worker, sometimes just as a geek) I am not THE only customer that the product targets. When your product is going to be used by 100,000 developers/testers the average or even the predominant usage is going to be very different from what you think it will be. Sitting though an usability study is a very humbling experience. Like I believed that everyone should just be using incremental search.

    Consistency is important
    Geeks and bloggers tend to over-tout coolness. While cool user experience (UX) seems awesome, it is frequently overdone and what seems cool on casual usage tends to tire soon. Consistency on the other hand lets your users get on-board faster and lets them spend time doing stuff they care about and not learning things that should work automatically.

    Consistency doesn’t mean that every application needs to look exactly like notepad. Expression Blend is a great example which looks refreshingly cool (appeals to the designers) and at the same time provides an experience that is consistent to other windows apps.

    Learn to let go
    ”If there’s not something you can actively do on a project, if it’s something you can only influence and observe, then you have to learn to provide your feedback, and then let go and allow other people to fail… People don’t learn if they never make any mistakes” ~ Raymond Chen on Microspotting

    Corporate software development is very different from Indie development. Large software development projects have a bunch of people/teams involved. It is not necessary that the collective opinion matches yours. At some point you need to learn to let go and do what is required. As an example I can debate on what a Debug Assert dialog should look like or do. However, there are other folks to design and think about the UX, as a developer I need to give inputs and once the call has been made it’s my job to provide the best engineering solution that implements that UX**.

    ** Do note the debug assert dialog is a fictitious example, I never worked on the IDE side.

  • I know the answer (it's 42)

    Indic Language Input

    • 6 Comments
    Diwali 2009

    If you have tried inputting Indian languages in Windows you know it’s a major pain. That is particularly sad because Windows comes with very good support of Indian languages. I had almost given up using my native language Bengali on a computer due to this. Even when I was creating the About Page for this blog and wanted to have a version in Bengali, I had to cut it short a lot because typing it out was so painful.

    There are web-based tools like the Google Transliteration tool that works well for entering text into web-pages where they are integrated (e.g. Orkut). However, I wanted a solution that pans the desktop, so that I can use it for say writing a post using Windows Live Writer.

    Enter the Microsoft Indic Language Input tool. Head over to the link and install the desktop version. You can install the various languages individually (currently Bengali, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu is supported). I personally installed the Bengali and Hindi versions.

    Since I am on Windows 7 which comes pre-installed with Complex language support I needn’t do anything special. However, on older OS like XP you need to do some extra steps which are available through the Getting Started link on that page.

    Once you are setup you can keep the Windows Language Bar floating on the desktop. The tool extends the language bar to allow you to enter Indic languages using an English keyboard via transliteration.

    image

    Go to the application where you want to enter Indic language and then switch to Bengali (or any of the other 6 supported Indic language) using this language bar. Start typing বেঙ্গলি using English keyboard and the tool will transliterates. The moment you’d hit a word terminator like space it inserts the Bengali word.

    image

    I tried some difficult words like কিংকর্তববিমূঢ় and it worked amazingly well

    image

    I had a very good experience with the tool. The only issue I faced was that the tool was extremely slow with some WPF apps like Seesmic twitter client. However, I got to know from the dev team that they are aware of the issue (it’s for some specific WPF apps and not WPF in general). I hope they fix it before they RTM (the tool is in Beta).

    Tip: You can hit alt+shift to cycle the various languages in the toolbar without having to use your mouse (which is handy if you typing using a mix of languages).

  • I know the answer (it's 42)

    NETCF: Count your bytes correctly

    • 0 Comments
    Pirate

    I got a stress related issue reported in which the code tried allocating a 5MB array and do some processing on it but that failed with OOM (Out of Memory). It also stated that there was way more than 5 MB available on the device and surely it’s some bug in the Execution Engine.

    Here’s the code.

    try{
        byte[] result;
        long GlobalFileSize = 5242660;  //5MB
        result = new byte[GlobalFileSize];
        string payload = Encoding.UTF8.GetString(result, 0, result.Length);
        System.Console.WriteLine("len " + payload.Length);
    }
    catch (Exception e)
    {
        System.Console.WriteLine("Exception " + e); 
    } 

    The problem is that the user didn’t count his bytes well. The array is 5MB and it actually gets allocated correctly. The problem is with the memory complexity of the UTF8.GetString which allocates further memory based on it’s input. In this particular case the allocation pattern goes something like

      5MB  -- Byte Array allocation (as expected and works)
    
      5MB  -- Used by GetString call
     10MB  -- Used by GetString call
      5MB  -- Used by GetString call
     10MB  -- Used by GetString call

    So GetString needed a whooping 30MB and the total allocation is around 35MB which was really not available.

    Morale of the story: Count your bytes well, preferably through a tool like Remote Performance Monitor

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