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10 tips for advancing from a beginner to an intermediate developer

May 25, 2009 Leave a comment

1: Learn another language

It doesn’t matter which language you learn, but learning another language (regardless of how many you already know) will make you a better developer. It’s best to learn one that is significantly different from what you already use on a regular basis. In other words, if you are a C developer, learning VB.NET or Java will not help you as much as learning Ruby or Groovy.

And when I say “learn another language,” I mean really learn it. Learning a language consists of three realms of knowledge: the syntax, the built-in operators and libraries, and “how to use it.” The first two are easy; I think that an experienced developer can pick up enough of a language’s syntax to maintain code in 30 minutes to a few hours depending upon the language. The operators and libraries are just a matter of slowly accumulating knowledge and being willing to check reference materials until you memorize what you need to know. But the third item — “how to use it” -can only be learned over months of working with a language, and that’s where the real magic happens. I suggest doing a project that is well suited for that language and doing it in that language’s style.

Truly learn another language, and I promise that your abilities as a developer will start to blossom.

2: Learn advanced search techniques, tactics, and strategies

More and more, being a good developer is not just about your skill, but your skill at finding information. Simply put, modern languages and development frameworks are too large for most people to remember much of them. As a result, your ability to get work done is often dependent upon your ability to perform research. Unfortunately, knowing how to find accurate, high-quality information is more than just heading to TechRepublic for the answer or typing a few words into your search engine of choice.

Techniques, tactics, and strategies may sound like synonyms, but they are not. The techniques you need to learn are the advanced search systems of your favorite search engine. You need to learn things such as the Boolean operators, how to filter results (negative keywords, domain restrictions, etc.), what role word order plays, and more. So essentially, RTFM.

You should learn tactics such as how to approach any particular search and knowing what you should you actually look for. Errors are easy — just look for the error code — but keyword selection on many searches is much more difficult.

With regard to strategies, you need to learn things such as what search engines to use (hint: general purpose search engines are not always the right answer), which sites to visit before going to a general purpose search engine, and even which message boards to post to for help.

3: Help others

Teaching others is one of the best ways to learn anything. It is understandable to think that you don’t have much to offer because you are relatively new to the development field. That’s nonsense. Remember, everything you know you learned from someone or somewhere; so try being the someone another person learns from. You can also learn a lot by reading other members’ answers.

4: Be patient and keep practicing

Research shows that it takes “about 10 years, or 10 to 20 thousand hours of deliberate practice” to become an “expert.” That’s a lot of time. Furthermore, becoming an expert does not always mean doing the same task for 10 years; it often means doing a wide variety of tasks within a particular domain for 10 years. It will take a lot of time and energy to become an “expert”; working as a developer for a few years is not enough. Want to become a senior developer in your early 30s? Either start your education/training sooner or be willing to do a lot of work, reading, and practicing in your spare time. I started programming in high school, and I devoted a lot of off-hours to keeping up with the industry, learning new skills, and so on. As a result, I hit the intermediate and senior level developer positions significantly earlier in my career than most of my peers, which translates to an awful lot of money over time.

5: Leave your dogmas at the door

Time for some brutal honesty: Beginner developers probably don’t know enough to state that there is One Best Way of doing something. It’s fine to respect the opinion of a friend or an authority figure, but until you are more experienced, don’t claim their opinions as your own. The simple fact is, if you don’t know enough to figure these things out on your own, what makes you think that you know which “expert” is right? I know this sounds really harsh, but please believe me; I have met far too many budding developers who had their careers or their growth set back years because they got hung up on some foolish piece of advice or followed some “expert” who really didn’t know what he or she was talking about. A great example of this is the abuse of object-oriented architecture. Many beginners read some information about OO, and suddenly the class diagrams to their simple applications look like the Eiffel Tower.

6: Learn a few advanced ideas in-depth

Much of what goes into being an intermediate developer is having a few concepts you are really good at working with in code. For me, it is multithreading/parallelism, regular expressions, and how to leverage dynamic languages. (And the last two are fading as I get farther away from my Perl history.) How did this happen? Multithreading and parallel processing came about because I read articles on it, thought it sounded interesting, and figured it out on my own; I keep writing apps that use those techniques. I had a job that used a ton of regular expressions in Perl. Also, I ended up writing my own e-commerce engine with a template processing engine and built-in database system; then, I spent nearly two years working on it.

Find something that has you really hooked. It might be image manipulation or maybe database design or whatever. Even if you’re an entry-level developer overall, try to become an expert in at least one area of focus. This will get you into that intermediate level quite quickly, and once there, you will be halfway to expert.

7: Learn the basic theories underlying your field

It’s one thing to write “Hello World,” but it’s another to understand how the words appear on the screen. By learning the groundwork that supports the work you do, you will become much better at it. You will understand why things work the way they do, what might be wrong when things are broken, and so on. You will become better by learning what happens at a lower level than your work.

If you are a Web developer, read the HTTP RFC and the HTML spec. If you use a code generator, really look at the code it generates. If you use database tools, take a look at the underlying SQL it generates.

8: Look at senior developers’ code

At your job, take a look at the code the senior developers are writing and ask how and why things were done a particular way. If you can, check out open source projects as well. Even if other developers don’t have the best coding habits, you’ll learn a lot about how code is written. Be careful not to pick up bad habits along the way. The idea here isn’t to just blindly imitate what other developers are doing; it’s to get an idea of what works and what makes sense and try to imitate it.

9: Learn good habits

Nothing marks an inexperienced coder like stupid variable names, poor indentation habits, and other signs of being sloppy. All too often, a developer learned how to program without being taught the less interesting details such as code formatting – and it shows. Even though learning these things will not always make your code better or you a better developer, it will ensure that you are not viewed as an entry-level developer by your peers. Even if someone is a senior developer, when variables are named after their 97 cats or their functions are called “doSomething(),” they look like they do not know what they are doing, and it makes their code harder to maintain in the process.

10: Have fun

Want to be stuck on the career treadmill? Hate your job. What it takes to move up in this business is not merely dogged determination to bring home an ever growing paycheck but an actual enjoyment of your work. If you do not like your work and you are a junior developer, what makes you think that being an intermediate or senior developer will be any better? Change jobs or change careers. On the other hand, if you love the work you are doing, great! I guarantee that you can become a better developer if you keep at it.

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Categories: computers, news, technology, windows

10 reasons Vista haters will love Windows 7

May 25, 2009 1 comment

Many of my friends and readers adamantly refused to make the switch to Windows Vista when it came out. Some who bought new machines with Vista installed immediately “downgraded” the OS. A few proclaimed that they would give up XP only when you pried it from their cold, dead hands. But even in the last category, many of them are impressed with what they’ve seen in the Windows 7 beta.

While some tech pundits are saying 7 isn’t really all that different from Vista — and indeed, one of the attractions for Vista users is that 7 can generally use the same drivers and run the same apps as Vista — the consensus among anti-Vista folks I know who’ve tried the 7 beta seems to be that the new operating system is “Vista done right.”

1: UAC has mellowed out

User Account Control in Vista is like living with an overprotective mother — when you’re 30. It’s constantly popping up to warn you of impending danger, even when you’re just trying to take a look at Device Manager or perform some other innocent task. It hovers over you and nags you constantly: “Are you sure you want to do that?” Like Mom, UAC has our best interests in mind, but it can drive you nuts in the name of “security” — especially when you consider that it doesn’t really define a security boundary.

2: Explorer is no longer a pane in the behind

In a misguided attempt to alleviate the need for horizontal scrolling, Vista made the left navigation pane in Windows Explorer a constantly moving target. As you move your mouse, it will automatically scroll back and forth. My husband calls this auto-scrolling feature the “whack a mole” phenomenon because of the way the contents of the pane seem to dodge back and forth.

You can avoid the auto-scrolling by dragging the pane to make it wide enough to accommodate the entire tree, but that isn’t a good option on a small screen, such as the one on my compact VAIO notebook.

In Windows 7, the navigation pane stays still, so you no longer risk getting seasick from all the swaying back and forth.

3: Graphics cards coexist peacefully once more

In XP, we could use pretty much whatever graphics cards we wanted for multiple monitors. I had a machine with three cards installed: an NVidia, an ATI, and a Matrox. XP would stretch my desktop across all three monitors attached to those cards. When I upgraded that machine to Vista, I found that I no longer had multiple monitors. Some research revealed that to use multiple graphics cards, they would have to all use the same driver. That meant I couldn’t use cards from different vendors together. I had to shell out a few bucks to get more ATI cards before I could use all my monitors again.

According to reports, Windows 7 has added support for multiple heterogeneous graphics cards from different vendors. Now this probably doesn’t mean you can combine ATI and NVIDIA cards in an SLI-configuration, but it sounds as if we can have our multi-vendor multi-monitor setups back.

4: Clutter and bloat are reduced

Vista was perhaps the culmination of Microsoft’s efforts to be all things to all users. Along with the built-in applications we got with XP, Vista added a contacts program, a calendaring program, a photo editing program, and so forth. While some users appreciate all these free applications, many others have been annoyed by the “extras” they don’t need or use. If you’re planning to install Office with Outlook, there’s no need for Contacts and Calendar. And if you have your own favorite and more powerful graphics applications, such as PhotoShop, there’s no need for Photo Gallery. The extras just clutter up your Programs menu and take up space on the hard disk.

With Windows 7, Microsoft has removed a number of the extra programs and now offers them as free downloads from the Windows Live Web site. This way, those who want them can have them, and those who don’t won’t have to deal with removing them.

5: Boot performance is better

Another common complaint about Vista has been the inordinate amount of time it can take to boot up. This might not be an issue for those who leave their systems on all the time, but if you turn off your computer every night, waiting around forever for it to get started in the morning can turn into a major annoyance.

A Microsoft spokesperson indicated that the company’s goal for Windows 7 is a 15-second boot time, whereas three quarters of Vista users report boot times of more than 30 seconds. Although the beta of Win7 may not have achieved that 15-second mark yet for most users, the majority of beta testers I’m hearing from say it’s substantially quicker than Vista on the same hardware. That’s been my personal experience, as well. Since it is still a beta, it’s not unrealistic to hope that continued tweaking will get that time down further before the final release.

6: Notifications can be fine-tuned

In XP and Vista, you can disable the balloon notifications in the system tray, but what if you’d like to continue to get notifications from some applications but not from others? Windows 7 allows you to customize the behavior by simply clicking the little arrow next to the tray and selecting Customize. In the dialog box, choose which icons you want to appear in the tray.For each application, you can select whether you want to display notifications or hide them, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Windows 7 gives you much more control over those notifications in the system tray.

7: Security messages are consolidated

In Vista, you have several security-related icons in the system tray, and you might have notifications popping up from each one. To make changes to security settings, you may have to open several applications. In Windows 7, all the security messages have been consolidated into one icon. When you click it, you’ll see all messages related to firewall, Windows Defender, Windows Update settings, and so forth, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Windows 7 consolidates all security-related messages in one system tray icon.

By clicking the Open Action Center link in the message box, you can make the changes that are recommended or (for example, in the case where you have an antivirus program installed but Windows doesn’t recognize it), you can select the option to turn off messages regarding that application, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

8: Side-by-side windows auto-size

Most of the monitors sold today come in a wide aspect ratio that’s better for watching movies, which is also handy for displaying two documents side by side on the screen. With Vista, though, you have to manually size those docs. Windows 7 has a cool new feature by which you can drag windows to each side of the screen and they will automatically size themselves to each take up half the screen when you let go of the cursor.

Even better, if you drag the window back away from the edge, it goes back to the size it was before. How cool is that?

9: Home networking gets simple

For home users without a lot technical know-how, networking has been made simpler in Windows 7. A new feature called HomeGroup allows all Windows 7 computers on a network to share files, printers, and other resources more easily. Thanks to Libraries (collections of certain types of files, such as music, photos, or documents), you can access files anywhere on the HomeGroup network as if they were stored locally, and you can search across the whole HomeGroup.

Windows Media Player in Windows 7 can stream the music and videos on one PC in the network to another, and even play back songs from iTunes libraries on other computers.

Connecting to a wireless network is also easier; now you can click the wi-fi icon in the system tray and select a network from the list, instead of opening up a separate dialog box to make the connection.

10: Taskbar preview really works

In Vista, you can hover over a taskbar button — for Internet Explorer, for example — and see that three instances of IE are open. You see the open pages stacked as shown in Figure D, but they’re so small that it’s difficult to really tell which page is which.

Figure D

The Vista taskbar preview gives you an idea of what your running application windows contain.

In Windows 7, the preview feature has been enhanced so that it becomes an extremely useful function. Now when you hover over a taskbar icon, you get actual previews that are placed side by side and are large enough for you to identify (Figure E).

Figure E

In Windows 7, you can actually tell what’s in each of those preview windows.

And that’s not all. If you’re playing a video in one of the windows, that video plays in the preview window, too. And if you right-click the IE icon in the taskbar, you get a list of your IE history files, as shown in Figure F. You can just click any of those and go immediately to that page.

Figure F

Right-clicking the taskbar icon gives you more options; in the case of IE, you can select from the history files, open a new instance of the browser, unpin the program, or close the window.

deccan chargers win the ipl(indian premier league) season-2 trophy- 2009!!!

May 24, 2009 Leave a comment

The heart pounded the chest relentlessly – from the time Anil Kumble bowled Adam Gilchrist to long after the entire Deccan Chargers dug out raced to the middle to celebrate a fairytale victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore in DLF Indian Premier League final on Sunday. It was a night when the Deccan Chargers refused to be tamed the Bull Ring.

The heart sought to gloss over Herschelle Gibbs’s effort – painstaking and scratchy for the most past – when Deccan Chargers batted first. He finished with 53 not out off 48 balls. But the mind reminded the heart that it was perhaps the single most significant batting effort on a sluggish track in the grand final. Deccan Chargers ended up with 143 for six in 20 overs.

The heart cringed a bit when the vastly experienced Andrew Symonds chatted up Royal Challengers Bangalore young opener Manish Pandey but it also knew that the teenager will have grown up considerably. Pandey, of course, heard more of Symonds and faced the attack less as had got to play but seven deliveries before being dismissed by Pragyan Ojha.

Ojha took a leaf out of Kumble’s book, put his hand up for his team and finished with three for 28 to play the lead role in Deccan Chargers’ spectacular defence of the low score. Of course there were others who made it work for the team that drew on the twin fuels of hunger and self-belief as they pursued their goal with single-mindedness.

Richard Harris starting the proceedings with a maiden over to Jacques Kallis; little-known Punjab fast medium bowler Harmeet Singh showing character under pressure and claiming two for 23; Andrew Symonds returning to scalp the dangerous Ross Taylor and Virat Kohli; RP Singh conjuring Kallis’ dismissal and finishing with 4-0-16-1.

There was more. A spectacular catch by Harmeet Singh, who sprinted from long leg and lunged forward to get his hands under the skyer to dismiss a defiant Vinay Kumar in the 19th over. Gilchrist himself contributed with two wonderful stumping dismissals to curtain the innings of Roelof van der Merwe and Kohli.

The sum of such wonderful parts was beautiful. And the heart

Then again, it was hard for the heart not to reach to the gallant Anil Kumble. It is not often that a man does everything he could possibly do – bowl with the new ball and claim Adam Gilchrist, come back to pick up the wickets of Andrew Symonds and Rohit Sharma at critical junctures – and end up having to watch his team fall short by six runs.

Two teams that had finished eighth and seventh last season fought every inch and one had to run out winner at the end of a stunning game that climaxed a wonderful tournament. Believe me, the heart hasn’t stop pounding through the writing of this piece; the words flowed even as a spectacular closing ceremony that followed such a breathtaking match.

Categories: entertaintment, news, politics

MUMBAI MIRROR RUMOUR: Cyrus and Sonam are dating each other!

May 24, 2009 Leave a comment

VJ Cyrus Sahukar, who played the sleazy photographer Suresh in Delhi-6, might have lost Sonam Kapoor to Abhishek Bachchan in the film, but he certainly got lucky in real life. Sonam and Cyrus, who became good friends while shooting for Delhi-6, are now seeing each other. The two will also be seen together in Ayesha, which is the Bollywood adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic Emma. The film is being produced by Sonam’s father Anil Kapoor.

A source close to the actress said, “Sonam and Cyrus have been seeing each other since the past few months. Their friendship grew stronger after Delhi-6, which was their first film together. The two are extremely fond of each other and enjoy spending quality time together. They usually hang out together and were recently spotted together at a suburban restaurant.”

Not too long ago, Cyrus had said in an interview, “Sonam beats me up randomly. I think she was my doctor in my last life. Whenever I’m a little low, she electrocutes me.”

Known for his comic timing and wit, Cyrus was also seen in Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti before Delhi-6.

Sonam denied the news of being romantically involved with Cyrus. “There is no truth to it,” she said.

HIGHEST PAID BOLLYWOOD ACTOR of 2008

May 24, 2009 1 comment

Here’s the hottest rumour doing the rounds in the film industry. UTV, which has a slew of projects on floors and is still planning a few more projects, has signed Akshay Kumar for a whopping Rs.75 crores. If true, it would be the highest ever price paid to any actor in Bollywood. However, a trustworthy source at UTV laughed aloud when I called to verify the development. “That’s not true! We have signed Akki for one of our forthcoming projects, but the price is nowhere close to what you’ve heard. And we wouldn’t like to go on record to confirm the actual price,” he said. But the fact remains that Akki is the most sought-after actor in Bollywood today, in the same league as Shahrukh Khan.

Shah Rukh starrer Dulha Mil Gaya to release on 18th September

May 23, 2009 Leave a comment

It’s confirmed. Dulha Mil Gaya would be releasing all over on 18th September. This would give the film a four day extended weekend since the festival of Eid falls on Monday, 21st September. Producer Viveck Vaswani is certainly heaving a sigh of relief as for the first time ever; he goes on record with the exact date of release.

“I had always maintained that it is producer’s prerogative to announce the date of his film’s release.

Over last so many months, there were so many out there announcing the film’s arrival on my behalf. It was annoying initially but later it just started amusing me.

There were so many different dates floating around even when I had never gone on record to talk about the exact date”, says Viveck who is still not resting after the completion of a hectic final schedule of Dulha Mil Gaya.

He goes on to add, “So now let me state on record that 18th September is the day when my film arrives. I can assure that it’s going to be one BIG festival movie. Dulha Mil Gaya is about celebration and the release timelines for the movie should further aid that.”

Directed by first timer Muddassar Aziz, the film was 95% complete till a few months back and was held up for completion since Shah Rukh Khan couldn’t shoot for a ‘qawalli’ sequence. Battling a shoulder injury, Shah Rukh finally managed to complete the film’s shoot by working non-stop for three days earlier this week.

“Correction – it wasn’t three days but three days and three nights. Even though he was in acute pain throughout and I suggested that we reschedule the shoot, he said that ‘let’s finish the shoot; it’s already too late’. What more can one say about the commitment of a man like this”, says Viveck with admiration in his tone.

With the shooting of the ‘qawalli’ track, Dulha Mil Gaya is now 100% ready w.r.t. principal shooting.

Smiles Viveck, “In any case we had already begun work on post production in parallel so there hasn’t been waste of time, resource or energy.

The film’s dubbing too is 50% complete. Sushmita should be having her dub soon though for Fardeen, I will hold on for a while till he starts feeling a little more composed after his father’s demise. As for Shah Rukh, he is dubbing for the movie next week.

So yes, I can claim that the team of Dulha Mil Gaya is up there with the progress of the film.”

All hell broke loose when Kareena came on stage

May 23, 2009 Leave a comment

It was her first visit to Ahmemadad. But one that she’s unlikely to forget for the rest of her life.

Thousands of star-struck Gujarati fans swarmed the Kanavati Club when when they got to know the event organized by Vashu Bhagnani for his son Jackky’s debut will feature Kareena Kapoor.

The fans were excitable enough when Sophie Chowdhary danced with Jackky Bhagnani.

But all hell and yell broke loose when Kareena came on stage for a medley of her hit songs.

To say pandemonium prevailed would be an understatement. As hundreds of Kareena’s fan ran towards her on stage the security bandobast went almost bust.

Anything could have happened to the panic-stricken actress.

Groggy and shaken Vashu Bhagnani said, “It’s true. Ahmedabad went crazy for Kareena.We expected a huge turn-out at the Karnavati Club. But not this much. 30, 000 people showed up. And when Kareena came on stage they lost control. About 400 people rushed to the stage. Fortunately we whisked her out from the back entrance. So nothing untoward happened.”

Vashu is eternally indebted to Kareena. “She took on these frenzied fans for my son’s sake. Who says this film industry is heartless? Kareena is all heart.”

In fact after the Ahmedabad incident Vashu had reservations about asking Kareena to be part of the next Vashu-Jackky show in Delhi on 27 May. But Kareena is adamant.

Says Kareena, “Yeah it did get pretty tricky at a point. Yeh sab hota hai. It was my first visit to Ahemedabad. I performed a medley of my best songs choreographed by Remo. It was for Vashuji’s son. How can I forget he gave me my first big hit Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai? No when his son is entering films it’s my duty to support him.”

The unruly fans rattled her. But to her surprise hordes of her little girl -fans descended at the venue of the performance dressed as her character Geet in Jab We Met.

Laughs Kareena pleasurably, “It simply zapped me. I completely forgot the heat of Ahmedabad when I saw those girls. It will be a long time before I’m allowed to forget Geet in Jab We Met.”