Broken Windows: How Bad Software Releases Happen to Good Teams

One of my primary responsibilities with the Akka.NET project is release manager - I put together the release notes, press the big green button when we’re ready to deploy, and make sure that each contributor signs off on the release.

The thing I take most seriously about my job is quality control - trying to ensure that no release ever does any of the following:

  1. Introduces a breaking change to a public interface;
  2. Introduces a game-changing bug that forces users to roll-back to a previous version;
  3. Causes a major degradation in performance or stability; or
  4. Never significantly alters the behavior of a component in a manner that falls out of alignment with previous behavior without giving the users sufficient advanced notice.

Unfortunately, within the past few months we’ve had all of the above happen at least once each. Akka.NET is an open source project that has seen...

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Introducing NBench - an Automated Performance Testing Framework for .NET Applications

I originally posted this to the Petabridge blog earlier today. See the original here.

Not long ago in Akka.NET-land we had an issue occur where users noticed a dramatic drop in throughput in Akka.Remote’s message processing pipeline - and to make matters worse, this occurred in a production release of AKka.NET!

Yikes, how did that happen?

The answer is that although you can use unit tests and code reviews to detect functional problems with code changes and pull requests, using those same mechanisms to detect performance problems with code is utterly ineffective. Even skilled developers who have detailed knowledge about the internals of the .NET framework and CLR are unable to correctly predict how changes to code will impact its performance.

Hence why I developed NBench - a .NET performance-testing, stress-testing, and benchmarking framework for .NET applications that works and feels a lot like a unit test.

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The Beginner's Reference Guide to Startups

I was asked by a close friend earlier this week about whether or not I have any references, books, or recommended reading for anyone wanting to get into startups. I don’t have a single source that I can point to, so I thought I’d write one!

Let’s start from the beginning.

Getting Acquainted with Startups

Before you get into trying to do your own business, it’s a great idea to see what all of the other entrepreneurs are up to across the world. Learn from their experiences, successes and failures both.

Start with Paul Graham’s essays. Paul’s one of the founders of Y Combinator, one of the most successful early stage startup investment vehicles on the planet. He’s worked closely with hundreds of startups, met thousands of founders, and seen deals of...

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Introducing Access to {AI} Conference, November 12-13 2015

Access to {AI}

And now for something completely different - I’m hosting a conference in the November 12-13th in Mountain View, California called Access to {AI}.

The goal of the conference is to have experienced practicioners of Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, and Artificial Intelligence introduce the techniques and tools they use everyday to programmers who’ve never done any of that before.

If you’re a TL;DR; sort of person, just click here to register for updates about Access to {AI}.

Why is this important? Well…

Breaking into advanced fields is hard

I first learned how to do distributed computing in college, and I was overwhelmed learning the strange new lexicon that came with it. I barely knew how to write C++ and C#, even...

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Developers Who Can Build Things from Scratch

There’s lots of different types of developers you’re going to need to work with over the span of your career in the software business, but the one I want to talk about today is the kind you need when you’re trying to build something new.

Finding a developer who can transform a set of ideas into something tangible is hard - they’re out there, but it takes more than just knowing how to code. I gave a talk about startup product development (slides) to some entrepreneurs on Friday and none of the folks in the audience had deep technical backgrounds (no engineers, in other words.)

All of them had ideas for products they wanted to validate and were looking for ways on how to find the right types of engineers to work with early on.

A developer who can take a blank sheet of...

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Akka.NET Request for Contributors: Akka.Cluster

Akka.NET - Distributed Actor Model for .NET

The next major milestone for Akka.NET is Akka.NET v1.1, the primary focus of which is a stable, production-ready release of the Akka.Cluster module.

We’ve made some solid progress towards that goal in some of our maintenance releases, but I came to the realization over the past couple of months that the way we’ve been working with our contributors isn’t the most effective way for the project to achieve these milestones.

In this post I’m going to invite you, a .NET developer who’s interested in distributed computing, to work with me directly on the guts of Akka.Cluster and take on a project that’s bigger than you or me. And it’ll be awesome - you’ll learn a...

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Visual Studio ProTip: Copying Binaries on Pre and Post-Build Macros

Last year I had to spend a fair amount of time working on C and C++ projects in Visual Studio 2013, and one of the tasks that I had to learn how to do was use Visual Studio’s pre-build and post-build events to copy all of my dependent DLLs into the final output folder for my applications.

In C# we take the ability to do this for granted - if we need to add a reference to another project in our Visual Studio solution we just Add Reference –> Projects –> [Project Name] and boom, we’re all set. Visual Studio will automatically copy our dependent binaries into our final /bin/[Release|Debug] folder automatically.

In C/C++ - hellllllllll no. You have to do this all yourself!

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Real-time Marketing Automation with Distributed Actor Systems and Akka.NET

MarkedUp Logo

This is an archive of a blog post I wrote for the MarkedUp Analytics blog on July 23rd, 2014. It’s been a popular post and I’m posting it here in order to preserve it. I shut down MarkedUp in November, 2014.

The MarkedUp team has had experience developing SDKs, high-performance APIs, working with Cassandra / Hadoop, and service-oriented software for several years. However, when we started laying out the blueprint for MarkedUp In-app Marketing we knew that it would require a radically different set of tools than the traditional stateless HTTP APIs we’d been used to developing for some time.

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Helios 2.0 Development Diary 2 - Channels, Config, and the Curiously Recurring Template Pattern

Picking up where I left off in the previous Helios 2.0 diary entry… After clearing the decks of all of any code I wasn’t 100% certain we’d be keeping, I began writing new code.

IChannel, IChannelConfig, and more

I immediately began by porting Netty’s Channel interface to C# (IChannel interface,) as this defines the root element of work behind the Channel API in Helios.

The original Channel interface is chock-full of detailed, helpful comments written by the Netty team and I did my best to port most of those over onto the IChannel interface in Helios, but I got impatient and left a couple of them to be filled-in as TODOs (send me a PR!)

Next I got to work on porting all of the ChannelConfig options, which included porting the AbstractConstant and ChannelOption classes.

The Curiously...

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Helios 2.0 Development Diary 1 - Clean Slate

To my eternal shame, I’ve never blogged about one of the most important open source projects I’m involved in: Helios. Helios is for all intents and purposes a .NET port of Java’s wildly successful Netty project, the reactive high-performance socket server that powers the internals of systems like Apache Cassandra and Typesafe’s Akka project.

Helios has dutifully powered the remoting layer behind Akka.NET (my main OSS project) for the past couple of years, and is capable of being a powerful tool within the .NET distributed programming ecosystem in its own right.

Helios’ Goals

Helios’ job is provide .NET developers with the following tools:

  1. An asynchronous, event-driven network application programming framework that works across both TCP and UDP, client or server;
  2. Message framing and buffering...

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