Mourning Notre Dame

Yesterday “Our Lady” fell to the ground. A fire destroyed 1,000 years of history, returning her to the dust she once crawled up from. Erasing her from history, as if she had never existed. I don’t care if you’re a Buddhist, Muslim, Christian or Atheist; If you’re anything even closely connected to the way I am, you’re in grief today. Yesterday we lost a symbol of our humanity in a couple of hours of raging fire, and today the world is darker because of it. Regardless of what you feel about Christianity’s history, the Kings who built the Notre Dame, the Conquistadors, the Inquisition, or the priests who abused her during the dark ages – There is no way you cannot see the stunning beauty the Lady herself was, standing there untouched by corruption, as a symbol of transcendence, truly a virgin, reaching for the sky, giving us all hope of something better. A symbol of that we can be better, try harder, and transcend our animal behavior and instincts, and gather around tasks, greater than ourselves. We are all poorer today. For 1,000 years Parisians have pointed at the Lady and told their kids “Your ancestors built that my child.” Today Paris lays on the ground in ashes with a broken back. Today is a sad day …

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Ways of Seeing – Software Architecture lessons from my Home

Happy, our happy cat, chasing flies on the wall in our courtyard

To an enlightened software developer, there is little difference between his home and the software he creates. I happen to have one of the most beautiful homes in the Cyprus, and it projects the exact same traits as the software I create do.

First of all, a home needs to have a solid foundation. My home was built 220 years ago, and its walls are 1 meter solid rock. Literally, it feels like I am living inside of a mountain. The same is true for my software. Everything I code, needs to be secure. For instance, when I store passwords in my database, I am using BlowFish hashing, to avoid Rainbow Dictionary attacks to be able to brute force the passwords. If somebody somehow are able to get a hold of my password database, they still won’t get to the actual passwords. This is contrary to the way Facebook stores your password in plain text, implying that if you use the same password at Facebook as you use other places, any employee at Facebook might gain access to everything in your online life. Even though I have access to the database where you store your password, I still doon’t have any idea what your actual password is, and even with a supercomputer, I would still not be able to retrieve your password.

This becomes the equivalent of the size of my walls in my house. In the village where I live, which is Pissouri, just some few hundred meters away from where I live, hundreds of houses are literally sliding into the sea, due to not having a solid foundation, and having been built literally on mud. My home has stood exactly where it stands for 220 years. It’s a testimonial to the brilliance of Nicolas’ ancestors, who built it more than 220 years ago.

Notice how the door captures the light

The height of the ceiling also gives room for great thoughts. Some decades ago, a scientist researched the effect houses had on people’s thought processes, and he came to the conclusion that if you were in a room with lots of room between the floor and the ceiling, you’d be more capable of seeing the “big picture.” Literally, air above your head, will inspire your mind, and give you room to think great ideas.

The “extra yard”

Just like software, your home should go the “extra yard”, to implement details, that sets it apart from the crowd. In our home, there are so many of the details, you feel like you’re walking into a museum as you enter it. Below is from one of our 4 bedrooms, a detail created 220 years ago, probably intended to display saints to protect the home from danger.

One of the 4 large bedrooms the house holds

In addition to this, the living room is divided into two separate places, one for our very large kitchen, and another for the living room. Nicolas did a great job when he renovated the house, to create two distinctly different “rooms”, without walls between them, yet still giving the feeling of that one enters a different room as you go from the kitchen to the living room. Take a look at the next photo to understand what I mean.

Combined living room and kitchen. The photo was taken before we got to decorate it with our furniture

Notice how the “old” merges with the “new” in this single room, divided by the arch, giving a feeling of spirituality and holiness. Just above our sink, is even a hole. It looks like a bird’s nest, but its purpose was to provide a place to but candles 220 years ago, to lighten up things. And just where the red garbage bin is, during the war between UK and Cyprus some 60 years ago, there used to be a food storage room, where Nicolas’ family used to hide soldiers fighting for Cyprus independence.

If you’re a software developer, you should treat your home as your software, and your software as your home. Because they both reflect truths about you, and how you think. And in the end, the creation of software is not the creation of code, it is the act of thinking. And to think beautiful thoughts, you need a beautiful home. A man’s home is his castle, and his castle reflects his mind. If you have a dirty or messy home, this will reflect on your work, regardless of what your work is. Below are some more pictures to hopefully inspire you to “think better.”

The hallway between the bedrooms and the living room. You have to bend your head as you walk between the living room and the bathroom/bedrooms. I think this is a reminder of being humble as you walk through the cathedral your software, and your home, really should be treated as

Notice the arch, and the vine rank, that’s been turned into a light. You can also see the old “light hole” on the wall behind the vine rank

Ways of Seeing, is that which separates the apes from humans …

And of course: Location, location, location! This is what we see if we leave our home. Less than 50 meters from our home, the most beautiful village in the world; Pissouri!

What is Dependency Injection

Dependency Injection is often being used when you want to decouple your components from each other, such that exchanging implementation later becomes easy. It is based upon interfaces, combined with an “instantiation trick”, that allows you to declare anywhere you wish what implementation class to use whenever somebody for some reasons needs a class implementing some interface. The Ninject website easily explains this using the idea of a Samurai that needs an IWeapon, implying that the Samurai can use any type of weapon, and that he doesn’t care about what weapon he is given.

If you look at my Magic for instance, you will notice that I exclusively pass in my services as interfaces, to my controllers. Then I bind my interfaces to some implementation class using Ninject. This allows me to exchange my business logic, if I need to do that later, without modifying my original service class. For instance, I might later need to cache parts of my database access, at which point I can simply create an ITodoCacheService, implement ITodoService on it, and make sure I bind ITodoService towards ITodoCacheService. This avoids forcing me to change the logic of my original ITodoService, yet still use my new cached ITodoService where ever I need caching.

Then when ever I need an implementation of ITodoService, I don’t create it directly, but rather request it from Ninject, through something such as “Kernel.Get()”, instead of creating my instance directly, which makes sure I get the correct implementation class every time, according to my bindings.

Dependency Injection is crucial for any large scale real world app, due to its ability to decouple your implementations, resulting in higher amount of “encapsulation”. This blog was written as a consequence of somebody asking me the question in the header, and I realised that few junior developers actually understands this crucial concept – Hence, I wanted to write up something about it, in an attempt at trying to teach something important, to those needing to understanding the concept.

Building Software Cathedrals

I have coded since I was 8 years old, I am 44 today, and most of this time, I have also spent most of my spare time coding too. In addition to having almost 20 years of professional experience with .Net and C#, I also have almost 200,000 lines of Open Source code on GitHub, and I probably know several dozens of different programming languages, some of which no longer exists may I add to be honest. I have also created a couple of programming languages myself, in addition to that I am apparently (according to Michael Desmond, the Chief Editor at MSDN Magazine) among one of the most read technical article writers in the history of Microsoft when it comes to C#, design patterns, and .Net architecture. Needless to say at this point probably, but I get half a dozen of job requests on LinkedIn every week. Which I am happy to answer may I add, although most of these unfortunately fall short for me.

So to avoid repeating myself, I’ll write up here what I want to do, such that you can determine if we are a possible match more easily, saving my time, and yours.

I want to build Software Cathedrals

What I mean by that, is that I want to create awe inspiring software, that people will still hundreds of years down the road study and marvel at. Secure, scalable and dynamic software, with a great architecture, and a great foundation. I also want to coach and teach, in addition to being Head of Development (obviously!)

If you think you can offer me this, I would love to talk to you, and hear you out. If so, feel free to contact me using the form below …

Teaching recruiters how to hire the best software developers

I’ve just created a 10 minute long video that allows a recruiter, without any software development experience, to recognise and see the difference between the code of a junior developer and a very, very good senior developer. I’ll wrap up a check list, and probably create some sort of statical analysis toolkit later for you guys, but at least for now, here’s a good beginning.

PS!
I am also for hire to look through code, and analyse it for flaws, if some recruiters wants my services. But this will (obviously) cost you. But it’s an inexpensive insurance towards making the wrong choice, and ending up hiring the wrong guy, believing in the bullshit he says about his own code.

Hiring a developer without seeing his code first, is like hiring a musician without having heard his music

Contact me below if you’re interested in having me analyse code for you.

The difference between a Junior and Senior developer

Having created code for 36 years, since I was 8 years of age in fact, I have seen many junior developers and many senior developers, obviously – And I can tell the difference within the blink of an eye. Show me your code, and I will tell you how good you are. Which is always why the first question I ask as I interview developers is “Do you have a GitHub account?”

Others will focus on giving away tasks, while I will ask a developer if he can show me some code he has done. I don’t care if you can’t implement Quick Sort, in fact, to be honest with you, I don’t think I could have implemented Quick Sort myself without looking it up. If I ask you if you can implement Quick Sort, the only thing I’ll have an answer to, is how good you are at preparing for a job interview. I still won’t have any clue as to how well you’ll perform in an actual job setting. If you show me your code though, I’ll have an answer to how good you are within some few minutes, and I will know if I can give you architectural responsibilities, or if I’ll have to hold your hand for years.

The reasons for this, is because your code shows me what choices you will do when confronted with a problem. Will you use Entity Framework or NHibernate? Will you use Mapster or AutoMapper? Do you know how to use Dependency Injection? What about Modularity? Can you create a modular solution, without dependencies between your different components? Only your code will show me the answer to these questions …

To bridge the gap between seniors and juniors, I have created a micro framework called Magic. It’s probably less than 1,000 lines of code, and can easily be understood within an afternoon, even by the junior developer. In many ways, it’s the Magic pill that will turn a Junior into a Senior, because it creates the structure for your projects, that a really great senior developer would always start out with, and does the right choices for you, in regards to which tools to use. The framework is based upon 36 years of experience with coding, and implements the design patterns necessary, to create a great structure, for any new project using ASP.NET Core, HTTP REST and C#.

It’s a Magic pill that will make you a Senior Developer in a couple of days

Simply because as you study it, and start understanding it, you’ll also make the right choices in the future, and avoid having to spend 36 years teaching you why you have to do things the way I do them …

Download the Magic Senior Developer pill!

Turn a Junior Developer into a Senior Architect for €50

Arguably the largest practical difference between Martin Fowler and John Doe junior developer straight out of college, is that Martin Fowler is able to create an architectural foundation that is much more scalable and resilient towards change, and can more easily be explained – Resulting in that your software project has a higher success ratio with Martin Fowler at the rudder, than it would have with John Doe at the controls. Hence, if we could somehow magically make sure John Doe Junior is able to create that same brilliant architecture as Martin Fowler, we could reduce the salary costs by 80% of our software projects, without reducing the likelihood of success.

Meet Magic

Magic does just that. It’s basically a framework that allows any junior C# developer to create his or her next web API with the same beautiful architecture as the best software architects in the world would choose. It’s based upon 36 years of experience as a software developer and architect, and created by one of the most read article writers at MSDN Magazine writing about C# design patterns and architecture. It’s the culmination of all best practices your software shop needs to be able to magically pull the rabbit out of the hat, again and again and again. And it doesn’t cost you a million dollars per year like Martin Fowler probably would. Nope, its cost is €50.

In such a way, starting out with Magic, creates an insurance for you and your little dev shop, and increases your likelihood of success, such that instead of having a 75% chance of failure (true numbers) in your next software project, you could significantly reduce that number to have a higher chance of success.

In addition, it’s Open Source, allowing you and your best developers to scrutinise its code before you purchase a commercial license. But don’t believe my words. Send it to your best developers, and ask them about their opinions. Then come back and buy a license as they give you their verdict. If you require additional support, I am for hire, and I also sell access to private training YouTube videos about Software Architecture. In addition to that I teach Software Architecture and coach juniors. Feel free to contact me below is this is of interest.

Hiring Jon Skeet for €50 per project

Reproducing brilliancy with a Xerox copier!

If you want to hire somebody like Jon Skeet to architect your next software project, you’re going to have to have really, really deep pockets. Chances are he won’t even answer your phone, before you’ve offered him €500.000 annually. The same is true for any of the top C# architects in the world, such as Martin Fowler, Ayende Rahien, etc, etc, etc. Unless your name is Google, Facebook or Apple, and you’re willing to dig up half a fortune, these people will highly likely not even bother answering your emails. This problem results in that the statistical probability of that your next software project will turn into a big ball of mud becomes roughly 100%.

I got tired of this problem, and I realised I could solve it, by creating a skeleton architectural “starter kit” for your next software project, that out of the box, applies all of the best practices that these people would normally charge you (a lot) to help you out with. For the record, neither Jon Skeet, Martin Fowler, Ayende Rahien or anybody else from this camp has been involved in Magic – Still Magic applies these architects’ best advice, simply because these people have presents on blogs, StackOverflow, etc. And there they have been giving away their best advice for years, free of charge, to anybody willing to spend 3 decades reading their stuff, and extract all the best parts.

Meet Martin Fowler, the good parts

For instance, the unit tests in Magic, applies an advice originally coined by Ayende Rahien. Of course, Ayende’s blog about SQLite Unit Tests for nHibernate is a decade old, so his code no longer works unfortunately – But I used Ayende’s ideas, updated it to 2019, and applied them into a general framework for Unit Testing nHibernate database controllers. In addition, Magic applies a very good foundation for Domain Driven Design, that Martin Fowler have written several good books about. And a lot of the inspiration behind Magic comes from ideas shared by the general community at StackOverflow.Com – Where arguably most of the best answers are written by Jon Skeet. Below is an example of what you can do with Magic in some few seconds …

So hold on to your hat, and download Magic today, it’s only €50 for a commercial license anyway, because …

… you simply can’t afford hiring Jon Skeet, unless you’re Google. But you can probably afford €50 for all of his best advice, distilled into a tiny architectural framework, such that even your Junior developers will simply “automagically” create Jon Skeet quality code and architecture, straight out of the box!

Finishing in half the time

Every time I start out a new project, I have to spend weeks simply getting the skeleton for my project up running. This is a highly repetetive process, and although I’m getting fairly good at it, the fact that I’ll need to do this repetetive task over and over again, is actually quite annoying to be honest. Simply wiring up Fluent nHibernate, Ninject, Mapster, and all the libraries I want in my project, often requires days of searching for solutions on Google and StackOverflow.com. This process also happens to be of such a nature that I rarely seem to remember exactly how to do it correctly from project to project, and the statistical probability of that I’ll do something wrong, is unfortunately very high.

For instance, in my particular industry, which happens to be ForEx and finance, there’s this concept of KYC, which means Know Your Client. For me as a developer, this implies I’ll have to create some controller endpoint, that can accept uploading of files, such that my employer’s clients can upload images of their identity cards, and/or passports. The arguments for this, is to avoid being used to do money laundering on behalf of dubious clients, whom for some reasons are doing dubious things. Regardless of the legal arguments, the task for me is the exact same; Create an HTTP REST controller endpoint, where I can accept files, store these files associated with some client, and make sure the files are secured, such that others cannot access them in any ways. Every time I create a system for my employer, the task is the same. Simply making sure this is correctly created, such that it’s secure, and doesn’t in any ways compromise the safety of our clients, often require days and weeks of coding, every single time I start out a new project.

The problem is that this type of solution doesn’t easily lend itself to libraries either. As far as I know, there doesn’t really exist good libraries allowing me to avoid having to do this task. First of all because every single time I implement this feature, it requires slightly modified code for that particular application. Some apps might want the clients to see the files they have uploaded, and possibly even upload new versions – While other apps only want the client to be able to upload a maximum of 4 files, etc. Other apps might require the uploader to be authorised, others don’t – Etc …

There is no way that I know about to intelligently create libraries that are flexible enough to permanently solve this problem. Still the code is similar enough every time to imply that it’s a problem that should be solved once, for then to never be looked at again. There are also tons of similar problems I face, that are common problems, but doesn’t lend themselves easily to libraries or NuGet packages either, because they require too much customisation to be intelligently reused as libraries. Authorization and authentication comes to mind …

Meet Magic

The purpose of Magic is to provide me with a skeleton for such projects. Basically, a starter kit, allowing me to start out with 50% of the problem already solved, for then to give me extension points where I can modify its source code easily, to accommodate for the particular problem I am currently facing, in whatever application I am currently building at the moment. Uploading of files securely to my web server? Sure, no problem. Already fixed.

With Magic I am able to start out my new projects in such a way that I no longer need to spend weeks applying structure, and implementing these repetetive tasks, I know I’ll have to do every time I start out a new project. At the same time, it’s not a NuGet package, and probably not possible to distribute as one either – But rather exclusively distributed as pure source code. This allows me to modify any aspects of it, by simply editing its existing code. In a way it becomes to my own day job the equivalent of what a box of Tandoori sauce is to my girlfriend. It allows her to rapidly cook Indian food, without having to spend hours creating the sauce. A box of Tandoori sauce has little value by itself, but mixed with some rice, meat, and veggies, it becomes a perfectly valid Indian dish. At the same time, my girlfriend can choose if she wants to add beef to it, chicken, carrots or onions. It doesn’t destroy her ability to think creatively in any ways, it just simply does what she doesn’t want to do, or don’t know how to do. It allows my girlfriend to make an Indian dish in half the time, while it at the same time increasing her ratio of success.

I’ll obviously use Magic myself in my own job. But in addition, I have also created it as a publicly available and open source starter kit for others to use as they see fit. This approach allows me to get valuable feedback about the project(s), and have other developers scrutinise my code, and come with suggestions, which is always a good thing. For open source applications, it’s free of charge to use. For closed source applications I charge €50 for each module in it. This allows you to start out with half the job done, for a handful of EUROs, every time you need to solve similar problems as I need to solve in my job. Arguably doing half your job, making you that more productive, for some 50-150 EUROs every time you start out a new project. Effectively becoming the “Tandoori Sauce of Software Development.”

Check out its source code at GitHub if you wish

Problems currently solved

So far I have created 4 projects. The main project is simply called Magic. The core of Magic provides you with an extendible web API, allowing you to drop in any controller endpoints you wish. It wires up Ninject, nHibernate, allows you to choose your database provider transparently, and does most of the wiring up. Out of the box, it is a simple TODO web API, but the TODO controller is simply there to serve as an example.

Among one of its really nice traits I think, is its ability to rapidly create CRUD controller endpoints, for any type where you need (C)reate, (R)ead, (U)pdate, and (D)elete capabilities. In fact, this process is so simple, you can implement CRUD for any types you wish, literally without coding.

Magic Auth

Magic Auth solves the problem of authenticating and authorising users. It uses BCrypt to hash your users’ passwords, and applies JWT token authorisation to your web APIs with a couple of lines of code. This allows you to simply drop in Magic Auth, for then to start applying [Authorize] attributes to your controller endpoints. It also of course allows your users to change their passwords, and such – But contain no additional “baggage” besides the bare minimums most web APIs require. This allows you to modify the existing User domain model, to apply any amount of customisations you wish. Email field, address fields and phone no fields for instance …?

Magic IO

Magic IO is the project that implements the use case we started out with; Handling files and folders on your server. It allows you to create folders, upload files, download files, and query and delete folders and files on your server as you see fit. It’s effectively a minimalistic implementation of the System.IO namespace from .Net Core. Not entirely finished at the point in time where I am writing this article, but I’ll probably wrap it up during a week or two, and create a release for it.

Magic Email

Magic Email gives you a webmail backend API, allowing you to implement your own version of Gmail if you wish. It features the ability to create POP3 accounts, and then have the system automatically and periodically poll your POP3 server(s) to see if any new emails have arrived. In addition it allows you to easily send rich emails, using MimeKit and MailKit instead of the builtin SmtpServer from .Net Core, which I am sorry to say, never seem to be powerful enough in functionality for my own personal use cases.

Interested in seeing how I can help your own software development efforts? Feel free to use the contact form below.

A Software Factory Process Proposition

There is nothing magical about the creation of software that doesn’t allow us to automate it. In fact, arguably the sole purpose of software, is automation of processes – So why haven’t we been able to automate our own processes? Why haven’t we automated the creation of software itself?

When Henry Ford started producing cars, he would look for places where he could standardise the construction process. This obsession went so far that he jokingly said “You can get a Ford car in any colour you wish; Black or black.” The idea of course, was that the colour black would dry in half the time other colours needed to dry, and that by standardising his colours, he could simplify the process of construction, resulting in that he could produce more cars in the same amount of time, resulting in less expensive cars for his consumers, and higher market shares for his company. As a consequence, an entire colour industry spun of in his trail, creating hundreds of additional companies, who’s sole purpose was to repaint cars to whatever colour the customer actually wanted after they had purchased a Ford. These companies for obvious reasons had an incentive to make sure Ford would gain even higher market shares, and hence such ended up advocated the advantages of purchasing a Ford. By underdelivering, he gained even more milage on his competitors.

If you look at the software creation process, most of our work is repetetive in nature. This is a sign of that our workload in these regards lends itself to automation. Everything that is repetetive in nature, easily lends itself to automation. Hence, arguably 80% of our processes can be automated. Few employees today are more expensive than software developers. If we can automate 80% of a software developer’s workload, we can cut the cost of creating software down by 80%. Hence, by automating our own jobs, an application that would normally cost €100.000, would end up costing €20.000 instead, and we have facilitated for a “software factory” – An assembly line production facility, that allows us to create software faster, less expensive, to more people, than our competitors can do. Needless to say, but such a facility would arguably within months of starting up, literally acquire monopoly on the process of creating software.

What colours do you want for your web API? You can choose; Black or black

Check out Super DRY Magic here