What I Ride, and learning to Ride

July 30, 2003 at 12:17 am


I mentioned a day or so ago that I have a motorcycle. A little clarification is in

I started riding in 1986 when my 1969
Citroen Safari
broke a timing chain at 70 MPH, and embedded a couple of valves
in the pistons. It was either a cheap car or a decent motorcycle, and a Honda
made its way to my apartment. After a few months of riding, I got my endorsement,
and started riding from time to time. Kim was also interested in riding, but the FT
was a bit tall for her, and her attempts were not successful.

Enter the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
MSF was formed in the 1970s to provide, not surprisingly, motorcycle training. I took
their Experienced Rider
, and Kim took the basic
. The basic course is a wonderful way to find out if you really want to
ride a motorcycle – the course provides motorcycles, helmets, and a world-class
curriculum, all for a few hundred dollars or less. In many states, you walk
away from the course having earned a motorcycle endorsement (assuming you pass).

Kim’s success led to a 1988
Ninja 250
for her, which was soon followed by a 1989
 for me, followed closely after by an MSF instructor course for me.

MSF takes its instructor training very seriously, and I spent 10 days doing nothing
but motorcycle training. After that, I taught a lot of classes, and did a lot of riding,
commuting year round by motorcycle for about a decade. The Ninja 250 was replaced
by a CBR600F2 for Kim,
and a few years later, my EX500, having hit 50K miles, was replaced with a 1997
, my current bike (though mine is a bit more customized than this one).

Kim liked the power of her CBR, but it’s a little too tall for her (she’s somewhat
height-challenged). So, where do you find front-line sportbikes for people who are
a bit on the short side? The answer is
obvious. All the Japanese manufacturers make home market bikes that would be perfect.
A friend led me to somebody who imports Japanese-spec bikes and registers, and the
CBR was soon replaced with a very rare in the states Honda CBR400RR,
which is pretty much the perfect wife for Kim

Then, a few years ago I moved near the Microsoft campus and got a lot more busy, so
I had to give up teaching motorcycle safety, and I still have a hard time finding
time to ride.

I missed a few high points, including an introduction to the pavement, riding a GP
spec 125cc bike, and being a passenger around a racetrack at 130MPH, but that’s for
another entry.


The persistance of nomenclature

July 29, 2003 at 10:40 am

Yesteraday, I was struck by the fact that in a technological world, nomenclature
outlasts the items it refers to.

When I first joined Microsoft (“The year was 1994. The place was Redmond, Washington…”),
we used MS Mail for email, and for scheduling, there was part of it named Schedule+.
If you wanted somebody to schedule a time with you, you would ask them to “sched+”
a meeting with you.

That usage has persisted over the years, and just yesterday I found myself using it.
As I used it, I wondered if the person I was sending that message to had ever actually
used Schedule+.

There’s a similar situation with our bug tracking software. For years, we used various
releases of an internal product named “Raid”, and though we moved to Product Studio
(the “studio” term shows up a lot…), you still “Raid” a bug, and probably always

When new people start and you have to explain this to them, you feel a bit strange
(don’t worry about uncle Herbert. He does think that he’s a plant and insist we water
him every day, but other than that, he’s perfectly all right).

This morning, I was looking for more examples of this. Record/CD is one, though I
always use “album”, and I think that’s still true if you choose to buy your
music. Since IP pays for my motorcycle, my skiing, I buy all my music.

Are there other examples of this?



Unit testing and TDD

July 28, 2003 at 5:41 pm

Back in March, I wrote a column entitled “Unit
Testing and Test-First Development

I’ve been playing around with unit testing a bit more since then, and have a few tentative

  1. Unit testing is, overall, a “Good
  2. Unit testing works well for class libraries, especially ones that act fairly statically.
    If you create one of these, you should be writing unit tests
  3. Unit testing is hard with graphical applications and/or dynamic applications. I have
    an app that I’m writing that uses multiple threads, fires events asynchronously, and
    is peer to peer. There aren’t any unit tests for that section yet.
  4. Unit testing is great for tricky code that you wrote but weren’t sure that it really
    worked. I updated my Regex Workbench a while back,
    and in the process wrote unit tests for all the code that I have that interprets regular
    expressions to english. I found one feature I hadn’t implemented, and two that were
    implemented incorrectly. I’m now much more confident that it works.

I’e also been playing with Test-driven development. I’m not sure about it yet, though
it is true that if you write the tests up front, you’re much more likely to write

Higher Primates Can Program

July 18, 2003 at 7:08 pm

This came
to me from one of the members of the VB team.

Regular Expression Workbench V2.0

July 7, 2003 at 5:51 pm

I’ve finished a new version of my Regular
Expression Workdbench
, and it’s now available on gotdotnet.
If you use regular expressions on .NET, or you’ve heard about them but haven’t really
tried them, this tool can help you a lot. If I do say so myself.

As an old Perl guy (in both senses of the word “old”), I’ve spent a fair amount of
time writing regular expressions. It’s easy to try out a regex in Perl, but not so
easy in a compiled language like C#. I wrote the first version of this utility a couple
of years ago, and in the first version, all it did was let you type in a regex, a
string to run it against, and execute it.

Over time, it grew. The next version supported some fairly cool features:

  • A menu with all the regex language options, so you don’t have to remember what the
    syntax is for zero-width positive lookaheads.
  • Automatic creation of C# or VB code based on your regex and the options you choose.
  • Interpretation of regexes. Hover over a part of the regex, and the popup will tell
    you what that part of the regex means. This is very useful if you’re trying to learn
    regex, or you don’t remember what “(?<=” means.
  • Support for calling Split()

This version adds a few more features:

  • A nicer UI. Not a very high bar, given the previous design (“Who designed this UI?
    Vandals?”) (5 points to anybody who knows who wrote that line…). A real menubar,
    a somewhat-pleasant grouping of controls, etc.
  • Library functionality. Give the regex you wrote a description, and save it away into
    a library, so you can open it up later, or show it off to your friends. Chicks dig
    a well-crafted regular expression.
  • Unit tests for the interpretation features. Found 3 or 4 good bugs when writing the
    unit tests. These tests will get better over time.
  • Support for calling Regex.Replace(). Specify the replacement string, and you’ll see
    exactly what gets replaced.
  • Support for calling Regex.Replace() with a MatchEvaluator. For the cases where you
    can’t do your replacement with a simple substitution string, the Regex class lets
    you write a delegate. The workbench now allows you to write the function, which it
    saves away, compiles, loads and then uses to call Replace.

Comments & suggestions are always welcome.







Maui thoughts

July 4, 2003 at 1:28 am

Spent the last 10 days in Maui (Pictures),
with no internet connection. This a a computer-free post.  

6/25 Blue Water Rafting

This morning, we went on a charter boat operated by Blue Water Rafting. This was a
trip in a small, 7-person Zodiac-like craft. The boat left from Kihei Boat Ramp (definitely
an advantage if you’re staying in Kihei), and we journeyed south to the most recent
lava flows (circa 1790). We spent a lot of time very close to the lava or inside some
caves at the side.

The trip included 5 stops for snorkling, including 4 sites on the west shore and the
obligatory trip to Molokini. Molokini is the
top of a cinder cone with a reef on the inside, and part of the cinder cone under
water. It is the #1 snorkling destination on Maui. This mostly because it’s fairly
big and can support a lot of boats, but there are better places to journey to. It
does have the advantage of being fairly sheltered, and the reef is pretty.

1) You rent the boat, you choose where it goes.
2) Spend time where you want.
3) Nobody else goes close to the lava flow.
4) Snorkel with Dolphins (if you’re lucky), or off the backside of Molokini.
5) Captains know where the fish and the turtles are.

1) Ride is very rough (the rafting moniker is deserved)
2) Breakfast and lunch are limited (muffins/fruit, sandwiches)
3) Expen$ive. For the 6 person boat for 5 1/2 hours, you will pay $800. That’s helicopter
tour territory.

6/25 Canon
Waterproof Camera Housing

I got my wife a waterproof housing housing for her Canon A20 camera (about $150).
You put the camera in it, seal it up, and it has controls on the outside. The display
might as well be off, and it’s hard to look through the viewfinder, so I had my best
luck pointing and shooting. It helps immensely if you can surface dive, as the fish
are often 15 or 20 feet down. A nice option, especially since waterproof housings
for my G3 cost around $800.

6/26 Snorkling at the Fishbowl. Or, perhaps the aquarium. We’re not sure.

On the advice of our captain, Kim and I and my sister and brother in law decide to
snorkel at the “fishbowl”. It’s near Ahihi
marine preserve
(also a great place to snorkel), but to get there you have to
a) find the trailhead and b) hike for 30 minutes across the lava field. Not as bad
as it sounds.

Once we get there, we find out that this is now a destination for sea kayak tours.
3 boats when we get in there, which isn’t bad, but another 20 arrive when we’re snorkling,
which means avoiding them and the 40 people who don’t really know how to snorkel.
The four of us go outside the bay, and Kim and I see a turtle, but that’s about it.
We come back in, dry off, and hike back another 30 minutes to the car. Not really
better than Ahahi.

6/26 Canon Waterproof Camera Housing (redux)

Used the waterproof housing again today. My wife and I conspired together, which is
never a good thing. If I had prepared the camera, it would have been fine, and if
she had done it the way she wanted, it would have been fine, but unfortunately, she
did what I had said, and left the carry strap on, but didn’t get it tucked in sufficiently.
The housing worked fine for about 10 minutes, but then I got it down about 3 feet,
and it quickly filled with water.  I did all the the right things (kept it wet,
soaked in in fresh water for a long time to get all the salt out), but the camera
is DOA right now. I may try cleaning it more once I get home, but it’s probably a
goner. Sigh. Off to EBay…

6/26 Kinston Technology 128MB Compact Flash Card

Despite the warning on the back that says, “do not bend this card or expose it to
strong physical or electrical shocks, water, solvents”, the compact flash card from
the camera survived immersion in salt water fine, and I was able to pull 12 pictures
off of it. It’s a bit like looking at the images of the Challenger before it exploded
and knowing that something bad is going to happen, as you can see a bit of fog on
some pictures, and then the last picture has droplets inside the lens.

6/29 Maui Thoughts

Maui is certainly a wonderful place. The weather in Kihei (and presumably, also in
Kanapali) is perfect – not too hot, not too cool.

Unfortunately, it appears that everybody in the Western Hemisphere feels the same
way. Despite the lack of Japanese money for the past few years, prices in Maui make
San Francisco prices look cheap. We’re in a 900 sq. ft. one bedroom condo a block
from the beach, with what is technically known in real estate circles as a water view
(ie the water can be seen if you lean out over the railing). A similar unit in this
building with no view is going for $200K. The place where we stayed last time (Hale
Hui Kai), a condo on the water, one of the units is selling for $750K. Or, you can
buy a large house 3 blocks from the beach for $800K. Oh, and if you have a condo,
you also have a maintenance fee of $300 a month.