Development, Functional programming

Exploring data and API’s with F# type providers

This post highlights an F# feature called type providers that makes my life as a software developer easier. Ever had to parse some JSON? Explore a shiny new REST API? Maybe you’ve had to quickly try out an undocumented SOAP service?

Imagine you could talk to any kind of service or interact with any kind of data in your regular IDE, using the full capabilities of a static type system with minimal fuss. No need to generate proxy client code from .wsdl files, no need to reference any Nuget package. With some help from F#’s type providers, It just works™!

Introduction

I’ve been looking to introduce F# in my daily workflow. As a consultant, I often don’t get to pick the programming language I work in. As a result, my experiences with F# are limited to side-projects or throwaway code that doesn’t get committed to version control. One area where F# and its ecosystem are really practical and even outperform alternatives is in exploring data and services, both in the broad sense of the term. Say you have to integrate with a third party REST API that provides little-to-no documentation. F# provides a magical feature called type providers that allows you to explore this API with static types, minimal fuss, and all the features you’ve come to rely on of your trusty IDE. It’s the perfect way to get started with functional programming in a .NET environment.

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Best practices, Self-Improvement, Self-Learning

Starting in an ongoing software project

Monday morning, 6 AM. You vault out of bed and into the shower, pick out your nicest shirt and leave for work. Finally, a new project. A breath of fresh air. The excitement of starting on a new team. The joys of digging into an unfamiliar codebase! 

In this post I provide some techniques I use to get a grasp on a new codebase fast. It’s always fun to start a new green-field project, but let’s be honest for a moment and acknowledge the fact that most projects you will work on as a software developer will start from an existing codebase. These tips and tricks will help you hit the ground running, even when you land in a muddy brown-field mess.

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Best practices, Self-Improvement, Self-Learning, Testing

Legacy code retreat

Have you ever worked with code that literally brought tears to your eyes? Not in the good sense, mind you. I’m talking about code that is such a hassle to work with it makes you rethink some of your career choices. If that’s the case, a legacy code retreat might be just what you need to stop your fear of legacy code and instead start to appreciate the opportunities for improvement it provides. Legacy code can be a joy to work with, if you tackle it the right way.

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Continuous Delivery, Security, Self-Improvement, Web Development

Techorama 2014 takeaways

Last week I attended the very first installment of Techorama, a new conference for developers hosted in Mechelen, Belgium. This post will walk you through my experiences of the conference and will highlight the most important takeaways from the various talks I attended.

General impressions

The conference had tracks on ALM, Mobile, Web, Cloud, Language & Tools, Sharepoint & SQL and best-of Build 2014. I mostly attended the Web and ALM tracks since they are most relevant for my current work, but I dabbled in the other tracks here and there. I expected this conference to be heavily Microsoft-oriented but it turned out that there were a lot of non-Microsoft specific talks. As a matter of fact, it would have been entirely possible to schedule your conference without attending a single Microsoft-specific talk.

Most of the talks I attended were high-quality presentations. The booth hall had some entertaining side tracks and there was a lot of swag up for grabs. The food was delicious (warm meals instead of the usual sandwiches!). Overall there was a very good vibe during these two days.

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Javascript, Web Development

Cross-Domain requests in Javascript

If you are developing a modern web-based application, chances are you:

  1. Are using javascript on the client side.
  2. Need to integrate with services that are not completely under your control (or that reside in a different “origin”).
  3. Have been confronted by this error message in your browser’s console:

XMLHttpRequest cannot load http://external.service/. No 'Access-Control-Allow-Origin' header is present on the requested resource. Origin 'http://my.app' is therefore not allowed access.

Every time I need to integrate a web app with some external service or some server-side API I have no complete control over, I bump into this error. Google has not yet provided me with a concise description of the problem or an overview of alternatives to perform Cross-Domain requests, so this post will serve as a personal future reference.

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Mobile, Web Development

Are You Ready for HTML5?

I recently attended a workshop on HTML5. It has been around for a while now, but I still learned a lot of new stuff. This post gives an overview of the new things I learned during the session and provides some benefits and drawbacks of adopting HTML5 in your web sites right now.

I had some experience with HTML5’s new features when I was creating a mobile application using HTML/Javascript, but this workshop really freshened up my HTML5 knowledge. The workshop was facilitated by Mathias Bynens, most of the topics I touch upon are inspired by his course material.

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