veskokolev.com - Vesko's New Place!

неделя, 27 април 2014 г.

Hi guys,


It's been 5 years since my last blogpost here. Trough these years I've managed to gather a lot of new knowledge and topics.


Now I'm happy to share with you that from now on you can follow my brand new blog on my brand new site www.veskokolev.com. I hope that you will find there a lot of interesting information not only about software development, but also for leadership and business.


Enjoy!

Introduction to Programming with C# - new book at the horizon!

сряда, 25 ноември 2009 г.

A few days ago Svetlin Nakov announced that we are starting a new open-source project - writing an introductory book about programming in C# language. It will be based on the book, which we have written almost a year ago - "Introduction to Programming with Java".

The book will be based on Visual Studio 2010 and C# 3.0, but won't cover topics such as lambda expressions and extension methods. The main purpose of the book is to teach the readers to think logically. This includes basic knowledge of Algorithms, Complexity, Linear Data Structures, Graphs and Trees, Sets, Object Oriented Programming Concepts, etc.

The book’s official Web site will be located at: http://www.introprogramming.info.

The developer’s Web site is located in Google Code: http://code.google.com/p/introcsharpbook/.

The SVN repository containing all project assets is located at: http://introcsharpbook.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/.

The developer’s mailing list (discussion group) is located at: http://groups.google.com/group/introcsharpbook.

If you want to take part in the project as author or editor, you are welcome to contact either me or Svetlin.

P.S.
I will lead this project, so wish me good luck!

P.P.S.
We are planning to translate the books (both Java and C# editions) in English. If there are eager people joining our next ambitious project, just rise a hand!

Talk at Open Fest 2009 - "Tesseract OCR Engine"

Few weeks ago I had a technical talk along with my colleague Svetlin Nakov about OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and more specifically - Tesseract OCR Engine. The lection was part of the Open Fest 2009, Sofia, Bulgaria and was widely attended.

We shared our practical experience with the Tesseract and the OCR in general as we had just worked on a very complicated project just a few weeks ago.

The presentation includes:
- What is OCR?
- Project Tesseract - history and versions.
- Downloading and compiling Tesseract - live demo.
- How Tesseract works? - an overview of the underlying algorithms.
- Training Tesseract - live demo how to train the engine for custom languages/fonts.
- Comparison with other OCR engines.
- Tesseract's future.

You can download the presentation and the demos.

Thanks,
Vesko Kolev

P.S. As the topic of OCR is really very interesting I am planning to have another post on it showing some further details about Tesseract as well as a sample OCR engine based on some AI algorithms.
Stay tuned!

Java2Days - a brand new event in Eastern Europe!

понеделник, 31 август 2009 г.

Hi guys!

I am very much exited to share with you the news of a coming Java event which we are preparing these days at NASD along with our partners from Insight_technologies – Java2Days!

Java2Days conference is a brand new event in Eastern Europe to present the latest trends in Java development.

Java2Days will be held at the Inter Expo Center on 8-9 October in Sofia, Bulgaria. The conference is hosted by Insight_technologies and the Bulgarian National Academy for Software Development.

The conference is the first of its kind to be held in Eastern Europe, focused to highlight today’s cutting edge trends in building software applications with Java development tools.

Over two days, more than 600 attendees will meet world famous lecturers, engaged all year round in such events as JavaOne, The ServerSide Java Symposium, Jazoon showcasing their latest knowledge in creating more reliable, scalable and secure solutions using Java technologies in more than 20 technical sessions.

The major purpose of the event is to become a place for passionate Java developers to get in touch with the latest technologies, to become a significant part of the global Java community and to learn from the best.

You can see everything about the conference at its official site.

P. S.
If you are going to attend at the Java2Days event, don’t hesitate to contact me – we can have a beer or two talking about everything which bothers you in your work as developers!

How to Send SMS under Windows Using Connected to the PC Phone with Datacable/Bluetooth/IrDA/PCCard/etc. in C#

петък, 24 юли 2009 г.

Intro

Today I had to solve a very interesting task for one of our projects at NASD – sending SMSes trough .NET and C#. In the past I have used different kinds of services for sending SMSes – SOAP web services, Email2SMS services, etc. The usage of the above methods is very straightforward, doesn’t require any special knowledge and the task is practically a trivial. Our application required sending of very small number of SMSes, so we have thought of another approach – to connect in some way (Datacable/Bluetooth/IrDA/ PCCard/etc.) a physical device to the PC and to send messages trough it.
In this post I will show you ready to use approach to send SMSes from a connected to a Windows PC GSM device that supports SMS sending.

The Possibilities
In general there are two possible approaches for solving the task. The first one is by consuming some API or already written library trough C#/Java/etc. I started with the idea of using Java and J2ME for developing the application. However as a C# and .NET fan, I decided firstly to research if there is something .NETish which I could use. A lot of comercial COM libraries could be found on the market, which therefore can be consumed from almost every Windows based language/development platform.
The other main possibility was to find some command line enabled tool, which could be wrapped by a C#/Java/etc.
After a short research my conclusion was that non comercial library which works could hardly be found. So I started looking for the other possibility – a command line tool. But what happened?

Solution
I was very happy to find something called SMSSender provided by Microsoft. SMSSender is an add-on for Microsoft Windows XP that will create and send SMS (short text messages) by using your GSM cellular phone. It also allows the use of all characters from international alphabets. SMSSender could be used under Windows Server 2003 and Windows Vista (with setting to run it in compatibility mode for Windows XP), too. The application has a very simple and userfriendly UI and can be used easily as a standalone application.

To send an SMS firstly you should select your already connected device from which you want to send the SMS. Then you need to input the destination number and of course the content of the message itself. When ready, you can click Send. If everything is OK, you will see the following message box:

On the other hand – if something fails you will see message box, simmilar to this one:

After a minute you will find why I am talking about this message boxes at all.

The Command Arguments
As I said above, the SMSSender application is command argument enabled application. The arguments which we are interested in are the /p:phone_number and /m:”sms_body”. Here we should ask ourselves what happens with the third option – the device selection. Unfortunately the tool doesn’t have argument for device selection. If we don’t provide such the application argues that no device was selected. But how we could select this option? There are two ways possible was to do the default device selection – the first one is to set the registry key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\SMSSender and add new string value called DeviceName with data field equals to the name of your device (in my current case LGE Mobile USB Modem or in other words the value from the dropdown above). The alternative way is just to enable logging (going to Options and check the Enable Logging checkbox).

The SendSMS Wrapper
OK we are ready to implement the wrapper. The task seems very straightforward – something like 10 to 15 minutes – start the process, hide its window, wait the process to end, etc. But is there something which could be a problem for us and make the writing of such application more challenging? If you remember, when clicking the Send button (which is equivalent to start the application with the appropriate command arguments) there was a message box which waits one to click OK(no matter successful or not). Yes.. I know such a behavior seems very developer unfriendly with this pup up messages. When looking for a setting/argument to disable these alerts, I wasn’t able to find such. So I had to put my past Win32 experience in practice again and had to close this message box with code.
I’ll explain this part of the code in short – after starting the process of the SMSSender, I start a thread, which polls for a window with a specific caption (using the native Win32 function FindWindowEx) with a given delay. After finding either the successful or the failed message box, it sends closing message to this window (again with a native Win32 function, this time SendMessage) and prints to the console the whether the message was sent or not. After this the application ends.

The Code

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
using System.Text;
using System.Diagnostics;
using System.Windows.Forms;
using System.IO;
using System.Runtime.InteropServices;
using System.Threading;

namespace SendSMS
{
class Program
{
#region Win32 API Import

public const int WM_COMMAND = 0x0112;
public const int WM_CLOSE = 0xF060;

[DllImport("user32.dll")]
private static extern IntPtr FindWindowEx(IntPtr hwndParent,
IntPtr hwndChildAfter, string lpszClass, string lpszWindow);

[DllImport("user32.dll")]
private static extern int SendMessage(int hWnd, uint Msg,
int wParam, int lParam);

#endregion


#region Methods

private static void ShowHelp()
{
Console.WriteLine("Vesko Kolev's SendSMS usage:");
Console.WriteLine("SendSMS phone_number \"sms_body\"");
Console.WriteLine("SendSMS 0812345678 \"Test sms body!\"");
}

private static void CloseMessageBox()
{
IntPtr hwndMessageBox;
while (true)
{
hwndMessageBox = FindWindowEx(IntPtr.Zero,
IntPtr.Zero, "#32770", "SMS Sender");
if (hwndMessageBox != IntPtr.Zero)
{
SendMessage(hwndMessageBox.ToInt32(),
WM_COMMAND, WM_CLOSE, 0);
Console.WriteLine("SMS sent successfully!");
break;
}

hwndMessageBox = FindWindowEx(IntPtr.Zero, IntPtr.Zero,
"#32770", "SMS Sender Error");
if (hwndMessageBox != IntPtr.Zero)
{
SendMessage(hwndMessageBox.ToInt32(),
WM_COMMAND, WM_CLOSE, 0);
Console.WriteLine("SMS sending failed!");
break;
}

Thread.Sleep(500);
}
}

private static void SendSMS(string phoneNumber, string smsBody)
{
Process process = new Process();
process.StartInfo.FileName =
Path.GetDirectoryName(Application.ExecutablePath) +
@"\MSSMSSender.exe";
process.StartInfo.Arguments =
string.Format("/p:{0} /m:\"{1}\"", phoneNumber, smsBody);
process.StartInfo.UseShellExecute = false;
process.StartInfo.CreateNoWindow = true;
process.Start();

Thread thread = new Thread(new ThreadStart(CloseMessageBox));
thread.Start();

process.WaitForExit();
}

static void Main(string[] args)
{
switch (args.Length)
{
case 2:
SendSMS(args[0], args[1]);
break;
default:
ShowHelp();
break;
}
}

#endregion
}
}

Conclusion
In this article I have showed you a ready to use source code which sends SMSes from a connected to your PC GSM device. You can consume this app virtually from anywhere – just wrap the wrapper and forget about this task!

I’ll be happy to hear your comments about everything related.

Thanks,
Vesko Kolev

Vesko on Performance – LINQ to SQL

четвъртък, 23 юли 2009 г.

Intro
In general some of the biggest performance problems of the applications seen nowadays are found in the database or the data access layer. This combined with ORM framework such as LINQ to SQL which is new for the development team, which encapsulates all of the queries made against the DB (and “of course” not profiled), which is not researched enough, could lead to very “sexy” results. Here I will try to show you a few common mistakes which I have seen through my everyday work with different developers from all over the world as well as the one that our students here at National Academy for Software Development make. At the end of this article you should know how to avoid such mistakes (not only the one that I’m showing here). I will provide you with the toolset along with the practices which do the work for me every day, and will hopefully do the work for you, too!

The Problems
1. GetAll() and GetCount() methods – this is a classical pair of methods. As you know they can have different variation such as GetAllBy[Something]() and respectively GetCountBy[Something](). I have found a lot of developers do the following:

But where is the performance problem? When somebody calls GetAll() the code just retrieves all the SampleObjects from the DB. This seems to be OK and it actually is. But what about the GetCount() method? It firstly fetches all of the SampleObjects in memory and then counts them. As you know the expected way of solving this task is to use the COUNT function in T-SQL. Of course the idea behind this GetCount() is simple – the developer tried to reuse the query defined in the GetAll() method. One would say – “Hm… I thought that LINQ to SQL executes everything possible in the SQL server. Why here it doesn’t do this?!?” The problem is that when you build the expression (assigned to the result variable) it returns value from IQuerable. Up to now this expression is just an expression – it doesn’t execute anything against the SQL server. However on the next line we have a call of the ToList() method which idea is to return list of SampleObjects. Thus here on this line we have a DB query which fetches the requested list.
Here we should solve two problems. The performance one is obvious – we fetch everything from the DB just to count it, which will impact the memory usage as well as the network traffic. The second problem is that we want to stick up to the Don’t Repeat Yourself principle (DRY, also known as Single Point of Truth and Single Point of Maintenance) – we don’t want to have the query for the GetAll() and the GetCount() twice. In practice it will differ only by the Count() method. Keep in mind that we could have more complex queries with filters, skips, orders, etc. so this could be very bad if we don’t obey the DRY principle here. The above snippet tried to solve this second note, but in a wrong way.
The following code snippet shows sample solution for both of the mentioned problems:

It just uses third method, which is private for the class and returns the common part of the expression as IQueriable. The two public methods just appends the query with a ToList() and Count() calls.

2. SelectMethod(…) and SelectCountMethod(…) for paging – this sample is similar to the above, but again is very common mistake.

This implementation totally breaks one of the main reasons of using paging – loading only a part of the whole content. You have enough knowledge from the point 1 both for finding the problem and for solving it.

3. The N+1 query problem – a nightmare from the past. This is a very performance intensive problem which becomes a classical in the software development folklore. The idea behind this problem is very straightforward – imagine that we have a list of SampleObjects and for each list we want to get which is his owner – SampleObjectOwner. Thus one could write one query for retrieving all of the SampleObjects (let’s say that their count is N) and for each object, we ask which is its owner. This means that we will make 1 + N queries for retrieving the needed data.
I will show you an even worst situation, in which we have to find the first object (if such exists) which have particular SampleObjectOwner as an owner.

The mistake here is similar to the above two, but here it’s the worst situation - the method GetByOwner(…) needs as much quires as the number of the sampleObjects + 1. This means that in the future, while your DB grows the performance will become worst and worst. The problem’s fix is so ironically easy – just compare…

The above code produces only a single query.

General advice
We have seen some problems, which weren’t found during the development process. The question is how to prevent ourselves from such things?
Firstly – one should definitely not use technology or framework in production without a good research. As we just have seen the problems have very straightforward and logical explanation. We should confess that not reading enough is a problem of many developers.
Second – as I mentioned in my previous post – use class like DebuggerWritter for profiling every method. Normally such problems could be found very easily just with one testing. Yes – you will need to have at least a vague idea about what kind of SQL statement should be composed by LINQ to SQL but this is a normal requirement for each software developer.
Third – stick up to the techniques shown in the solutions above. They represent a good pattern for writing DAL logic with LINQ to SQL.

Conclusion
Hopefully, now you should know more about LINQ to SQL and how to avoid some of the problems, which are commonly seen in the developers’ code. It will be very helpful to add your comments to that topic showing problems that you have had/seen in your work.

Thanks,
Vesko Kolev

Vesko on Performance – New Series of Posts

вторник, 21 юли 2009 г.

Intro
These days I have been working on a very interesting project here at National Academy for Software Development. I had to make a performance audit of a project on which two or three development teams have been working on previously.

The situation:
- The used technologies were .NET Framework 3.5, C# 3.0, ASP.NET 3.5, SQL Server 2005, LINQ and LINQ to SQL.
- 2-tier architecture.
- The coding style – very different (different dev teams from different parts of the world).
- The used practices – hard to find after so many patches.
- The performance – poor.

I’m preparing a short series of posts about the problems, which I could be found in this software as well as in many others. As you will see below not all of the problems could be fixed. However most of them could be and you can think of them as something which you should definitely avoid. I’ll provide you with some set of advices how to find/avoid such problems. They will include tools and practices which will help you to provide more robust and reliable software. I will be very happy to “hear” your comments about the written as well as your personal experience with similar problems.

Let’s start our performance journey with the first topic!



Shit of the Day: DataPager Binds Twice
While I was observing the behavior of one of the pages which seems to have problems, I found something very “interesting”. Firstly, let me give you some necessary info about this particular situation. The page had a ListView control, DataPager associated with it and ObjectDataSource against which the ListView was bound. As you know, the ObjectDataSource provides two properties – SelectMethod and SelectCountMethod which retrieve respectively the items with which the list will be bound as well as their count. Of course the data source should know also which class provides these methods, so there is also property called TypeName. You know that for the paging functionality we should be able to “ask” how many records are there as well as “give me the i-th page”. This in theory means that we should make two DB queries to “ask” these two questions.

But what happened in practice? I found that the select method and the count method were called twice. My first suspicion was that the control was bound twice. I start inspecting the code line by line searching for such thing. After a few minutes of debugging I convinced myself that the list was bound only once. The next step was to review the DAL (Data Access Layer) logic for potential problems. Again - nothing which could cause this behavior…

In such situation the only thing which could be done is googling. I searched for a while and found the following article from a Microsoft’s site – “DataPager double binds when paging using QueryStringField” which was confirmed to be a bug. I’ve quickly checked whether QueryStringField is used in my situation and voila – the problem was dissected.

The short description about this bug is: “When you use the QueryStringField with a DataPager it causes the ListView to bind twice; once as if it was on the first page, and a second time for whatever page is passed via the QueryString (even if it is also the first page). Naturally, this is very bad for performance and completely unnecessary.”

Currently Microsoft hasn’t provided any workarounds for this problem. So just try to avoid using this particular combination in your projects.

General advice
When you are developing particular page/control always check the queries which are made against your database both for loading and storing data. When using ORM frameworks such as LINQ to SQL it is very important to know exactly what queries are executed against your DB. You could use frameworks like Log4Net/Microsoft Enterprise Library Logging Application Block along with DataContext.Log property. You should definitely use (if not already) classes like this for outputting LINQ to SQL queries to the debugger output. These very simple practices will save your live from similar shit of the day.

Stay tuned and have fun!

 
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