Friday, October 30, 2009

Reviewing UppercuT - A Build Framework Based On NAnt

Earlier this week I went to the Kansas City .Net User Group meeting where the topic of discussion was UppercuT, a build management framework created by Rob Reynolds. The discussion was pretty good and Rob did a good job at showing a number of demonstrations on how to use the various aspects of UppercuT. All in all, I feel like the presentation got the point across as to the typical why/when/how/etc. questions.

What Is UppercuT?

UppercuT is a build management framework based on NAnt. It was created in order to establish a consistent way to build .Net applications with a minimum amount of configuration while providing areas for extensibility. In addition to just compiling, UppercuT provides a number of options to manage application versioning, automated testing, and code packaging. While it can be extended to include such steps through NAnt, UppercuT doesn't deploy only stages it since every company/project's deployment strategies may be different. One nice thing that UppercuT does do in terms of deployments though is provide you instructions on how to wire it up to

When Should UppercuT Be Used?

UppercuT provides a way for people who have not started to take advantage of automated builds to do so quickly. Because of this, it's best suited for projects that don't have automated build systems integrated into them yet. With some configuration changes, it is possible to integrate with your current scripts; however, changes would need to be made on both side to the point where it would honestly be easier to convert your current scripts to custom steps for UppercuT to take advantage on. If you currently use some build framework like MSBuild or NAnt, I would probably recommend at least checking out UppercuT to see if it's a good fit; however, if you or your company already have some system that works for you in place, it may be better to just keep with what you have.

Where Can I Download and Learn More?

You can find more information on Uppercut by going to it's project website at In addition, you can check out Rob's blog over at as well as on Twitter by following @ferventcoder and @ProjectUppercuT.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Is Learning though a UI worth it?

Do you remember the last time you learned a new, back-end technology like Linq-to-Sql, Entity Framework, NHibernate, the Twitter API, or some other 3rd party API? How did you first go about learning it?  If you used some tutorial of some sort (be it a blog, video, or some other medium), how did you try it out?  Did they have create a basic web page to present the data from the API that you were consuming? If you DID create any form or UI to consume this API, here's two questions for you...


  1. How long did it take you to create that UI compared to writing the code that uses the API?

  2. Did you learn more about the API from the UI or from writing the code that actually interacted with the API?


Now, let me restate that I'm aiming these questions specifically at back-end technologies.  Any technology that deals with any aspect of a UI (i.e. JavaScript, Silverlight, etc.) obviously depends on the UI and really does not apply. However, if you're NOT focused on a UI-dependent technology, why do you create a UI to learn something that doesn't require it?

Don't get me wrong.  I was guilty of this as well and what I found is that I got sick and tired and bored spending so much time creating a UI and it would take me longer to get to the subject of my studies.  Throw in a dash of OCD or ADHD because I couldn't just make a simple UI but needed some form of basic layout and color contrasts at the very least and it was a recipe of boredom.  It wasn't really until something clicked that I began to really realize that I learned more from the tests or the debugger while stepping through the code consuming these APIs than how the information was presented.  Sure it felt good when I could apply what I learned to a UI but applying the UI layer did not directly provide any value for me towards learning the API.

But again, if it takes so much time and provides a greater opportunity for distractions, is it worth it to learn a back end process by means of applying such to a UI?

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