Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I finally broke down and started a page with my presentations. Check it out here. I included the talk I gave tonight at the Java User's Group. There's not much up there, but I will be adding more soon. Lastly, I would like to thank everyone for coming out and supporting me. It meant a lot to me when people told me that they read my blog and enjoyed it. Omaha rocks. Thanks for the support. I love you all!

Saturday, January 05, 2008


I think some folks in the Ruby community need a hug. If you find one, give them one and tell them it'll be OK. Not everyone can have a job doing Rails.

Reflection on Everything

Smalltalk allows you to reflect on everything. You can not reflect on objects to find their instance variables and methods. But, you can also reflect on code running and on the stack. It's powerful stuff. Why would you need this extra power? You might be a lazy developer. You might constantly remind yourself, "I work in a dynamic language and it should work for me!" Let's go digging shall we?

One thing you have to be careful in dynamic languages are message not understood or method missing errors. One easy mistake to make is to do the following:
[someObject doSomething] 
on: MessageNotUnderstood
do: [:ex |
"log something"

What's wrong with the above code? Well, are you trying to catch if doSomething is not understood by someObject? If so, the call can still succeed and there could be a nasty bug further down in the code. The handler will be giving misinformation on the true problem. Frustrating to say the least. It's better to do something like this:
[someObject doSomething]
on: MessageNotUnderstood
do: [:ex |
(ex message selector == #doSomething and: [ex receiver == someObject])
ifTrue: ["log"
ifFalse: [ex pass]]

Yuck. But, it does check the receiver and selector to make sure we captured the right exception. Lots of typing for something simple. Granted you shouldn't be doing a lot of guarding against MessageNotUnderstoods (polymorphism anyone?). But, sometimes it is necessary. Besides, we wouldn't have this fun little blog post would we. Basically, the above method checks for the right selector and receiver that we expected to have a MessageNotUnderstood and if it did we do our logging code. If not, it's something we didn't account for and is a bug, thus we "pass" the exception to the next handler. But, how can we prevent ourselves from all of this typing?

Squeak has this method implemented:
BlockConext>>onDNU: selector do: handleBlock
"Catch MessageNotUnderstood exceptions but only those of the given selector (DNU stands for doesNotUnderstand:)"

^ self on: MessageNotUnderstood do: [:exception |
exception message selector = selector
ifTrue: [handleBlock valueWithPossibleArgs: {exception}]
ifFalse: [exception pass]

It does not check the receiver, but that's OK. It turns our code into this:
[someObject doSomething] onDNU: #doSomething do: ["log something" ^self]

Nice. It's much more succinct, but I don't like the duplication of "doSomething". What are we to do? I came up with this method:
BlockConext>>onImmediateNotUnderstoodDo: anExceptionBlock 
^ self
on: MessageNotUnderstood
do: [:problem |
| myContext problemContext |
myContext := thisContext home.
problemContext := problem signalerContext sender sender sender.
(problemContext == myContext
and: [self method messages includes: problem message selector])
ifTrue: [anExceptionBlock
valueWithPossibleArgs: (Array with: problem)]
ifFalse: [problem pass]]

Here's what it makes our code look like now:
[anObject doSomething] onImmediateNotUnderstoodDo: ["log something" ^self]

It looks like what we started with, but this version is safe. It will pass the MessageNotUnderstood exception if the send did not happen directly from the block we defined.

What is the method above doing? The method I wrote reflects on the stack and the compiled code. I use the stack to find the receiver that should be in the block. The compiled code is needed to find all of the selectors that are called directly from the block. Pretty cool, huh?

Smalltalk is one of the few languages where you can reflect on everything on the stack. Stack frames are objects too. It makes doing difficult things possible.

Favorites of 2007

1. No World For Tomorrow - Coheed and Cambria
More hooks and punches than a lightweight boxing match make this my favorite of the year. I simply can not get enough of this band. The groove, vocals, harmonies, and everything is perfection. Roll down the windows and sing loudly.

2. Act II - The Dear Hunter
I loved the previous disc and this one continues down that path. Clever lyrics with instrumentation that puts me in an 1800's brothel. Indie rock with unique instrumentation. This band has its own identity. I can't wait to hear more.

3. From Beale St. To Oblivion - Clutch
One of my favorite rock bands. The go-go influence takes a bit of backseat in this one, but they still rock and roll better than anyone. Their groove is just unbeatable. These guys should be in the upper ranks with rock's other elite. Not a disappointment yet with their enjoyable old school rock with funk, blues, and hardcore blended in the right doses. This is unpretentious rock that is catchy, fun, and smart.

4. Strum Sum Up - Dug Pinnick
I loved the last King's X and have always enjoyed Doug's output. He is one of my favorite vocalists of all time. But, nothing set me up for this. Wow. Doug takes all of his influences and gives us a ride through them all without losing sight of hooks or groove. Doug proves he is a jack of all trades and gives me an album that makes me want to hit repeat.

5. Killing Peace - Onslaught
OK, I wasn't a big fan of their 80's output until Steve Grimmitt sang for them. I wasn't expecting much out of this at all, but thought what the hell. It was getting good reviews and who can't live without another thrash record right? This blew me away. In a day when retro-thrash bands are a dime a dozen, it takes the old guys to show them how to do it with PASSION. Sure, the lyrics are cheesy, but when sung with such conviction. It reminds me of the good ole days.

6. Rhythms From a Cosmic Sky - Earthless
I got this late and this is simply great space rock. It ebbs and flows yet never bores. 70's rock that takes you on a journey that you never want to end. It's only 3 songs clocking in other 45 minutes. Turn it up.

7. Ocean's Thirteen Soundtrack - David Holmes
I love all of the Ocean's movies. Sure, they've gone down in quality ever since the first one, but the one constant has been the great soundtracks for each of them. I think this is the best of the soundtracks though. It adds something special to the ambience of the movie. Creative sampling make this just a jaw dropping electronic music experience. None of the spices overbear the others.

8. Tervaskanto - Korpiklaani
I've never been big into folk metal because most of it has been depressing. Not this band. Accordians and violins mixed with heavy metal guitars makes for a rollicking good time. The songs are catchy and fun to drink a pint to. Upbeat and always puts me in a good mood. One of my favorite finds for this year.

9. "V" is for Vagina - Puscifer
Tool's singer tries to pull a Mike Patton and do his own Peeping Tom. Silly, catchy as all hell, and different. I like it. It's not exactly like Peeping Tom, but the mood is similiar. Pop music with electronic flourishes and Maynard's distinctive croon over it. A lot of people hated this, but I think it was because they were expecting Tool. Tool this is not. It's dark pop with lyrics that make you chuckle. It's refreshing to finally hear a side project from a member of a band that sounds nothing like their main band. Kudos for taking a risk and doing something different.

10. Hangman's Hymn - Sigh
Eccentric. I've loved Sigh for a long time and they never seem to suprise me even though I know what I'm getting into with each album. Everything but the kitchen sink instrumentation, but this time the songs flow. It's not as much of a bumpy ride as before and that's a good thing.

11. Mythmaker - Skinny Puppy
This is the second album since their return and they are a different beast now. The songs are now melodic and catchy. It's dark pop electronic music. It's nothing like the bleakness of their previous output and that's OK. I love this version of the Pup too. They did incorporate a little bit of their darkness from "Last Rights" and it made me smile. Still the best industrial band in the world.

12. Cortical Tectonics - Canvas Solaris
Instrumental progressive metal that has to be heard to be believed. They keep things moving along and never have a boring moment. A musical maze that excites and breathes. They even manage to keep things from sounding too much a like. One fun ride.

13. In These Veins - Hearse
Surprise of the year for me right here. Melodic death metal with Johan Liiva (former singer of Arch Enemy). The songs are all memorable with a few twists and turns to keep things fresh. Melodic death metal has been getting stale for a while. Arsis was the last to breath new life into it. Hearse is the next. No other melodic death metal release came close to this.

14. Fear of a Blank Planet - Porcupine Tree
Another album that I'm shocked more people didn't love. I'll admit I've always like Tree's previous output, but this one just clicked with me. Maybe it was time, because I have revisted their previous output and now love it. The laidback prog with a little kick of metal and melodic vocals just get me.

15. The Mix-Up - Beastie Boys
I'm a sucker for lounge and electronic music. I'll admit that I hate the Beastie Boys' rap output (not because I hate rap, I hate the whiny rap vocals). I picked this up because I've always loved the music, but thought the nasally rapping killed otherwise cool songs. So, I figured I would get some cool instrumental dance music with heavy beats. What I got was a through back to the 60's. This is lounge music with light electronic flourishes. This is the stuff to sip martinis to and relax.

16. Open Fire - Alabama Thunderpussy
Kyle Thomas is one of my favorite vocalists and I was so pumped when I found out that he would be in front of Thunderpussy. This is turn the amps to 11 and forget the neighbors. Unpretentious and loud rock with heart and soul. This is the way metal used to be in the 70's and early 80's. Thunderpussy reminds us how good those times were. A time where a good song was the most important thing.

17. City of Echoes - Pelican
This was a love or hate album apparently. Instrumental rock that took me on a great journey. I need to check this band's previous output. This was the year for great instrumental albums. I would love to hear this album played live. If you're bored with paint by the numbers rock, then you need this.

18. The Machinations of Dementia - Blotted Science
Instrumental progressive death metal that knows not to bludgeon you all of the time. Heavy one moment, somber the next, and then all out wackiness. But, again, never going into wanking territory and keeping the melody in mind at all times.

19. Foley Room - Amon Tobin
Dark electronic music with loads of samples. Amon Tobin is one of my favorite electronic artists with inventive sampling that sets a tone. This one is a bit more ambient and darker than previous releases, but just as good. No one has been able to touch Amon yet.

20. Hardworlder - Slough Feg
Do you love 70's/early 80's metal? You know before hair spray and image took over the music? Back when bands had their own sound and were'nt cut from the same cloth. Slough Feg takes us back to that time. They have their own sound that calls back to that era, but you will be hard pressed to say they are a retro-band. A great set of songs that I can't stop listening to!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Omaha Dynamic Language User's Group

Fingers tired from typing in all of those Emacs commands from trying out new Ruby and Lisp code from the books you got for Christmas? Why don't you take a small break and join your fellow comrades. Trust me your mind and fingers will thank you. This month we have a very special guest from Microsoft, Bob McCoy. He'll be demonstrating all of the cool things that you can do with PowerShell. It just might make Mac users envious. Here's the full abstract:
PowerShell is Microsoft’s next generation scripting language and environment. It will be the native shell environment for Windows Server 2008 and is at the heart of every administration task in Exchange 2007. It is extremely powerful and at the same time very simple to use. It is aimed at system administrators and scripters.

This will be about 40% slides and about 60% demonstration. I try to keep it highly interactive so it ends up answering a lot of questions along the way.

But, that's not all! You not only get Bob McCoy, but we're also bringing the brightest fellows in Omaha. But, wait that's not all! We'll throw in sponsorship from TekSystems which means free food and more pop than you can drink. All for the incredible low price of FREE! Why delay? Come to the meeting!

On a side note, a little bird told me that TekSystems has some Ruby openings right now! Get in contact with Heather Blockovich or better yet come to the meeting to find out more.

SpeakerBob McCoy
TimeJanuary 8, 7-9pm
LocationUNO's Peter Kiewit Institute (PKI) building
1110 South 67th Street
Omaha, NE