In this episode from November 2016: What developers should really care about; the first release candidate for Visual Studio 2017; Writing unethical or illegal code; Emptying ATMs of their cash; things programmers say; and what dialup modem noises mean.

Sharpen the Saw is a somewhat delayed repost of a semi-regular newsletter of information I publish for the professional development of software developers. While targeted primarily at developers working with the Microsoft technology stack, content will cover a wider range of topics.

To subscribe, send me an email and I’ll put you on the list. Membership is moderated.


Always a way to improve the code you write every day.

What developers should really care about

Some time ago I had an interesting revelation - that nobody wants my code; instead they want the things my code can provide.

This means that I need to pay attention to many little details if I want the project (or product) to be successful.

What are these little details? Here’s one opinion …

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Software and Updates

A new or upgraded tool can be a beautiful thing.

Visual Studio 2017 RC 1

The first release candidate for Visual Studio 2017 is available and you really should try it out. Of course, there are new features to consider, but there are also large numbers of little improvements that make the upgrade well worthwhile.

So far, my favorite two are the new installer and live testing.

The new installer is significantly faster and smarter. It also greatly reduces the disk footprint, useful for those using virtual machines for development. Updates are amazingly quick too.

Live testing brings unit testing to the next level, giving you live feedback about the state of your unit tests while you are writing code.

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Being Professional

A great developer does more than just write great code.

Unethical and Illegal things

Have you ever been asked to write code that touches - or crosses - an ethical line?

In one previous role, I wrote software that was used by casinos - used to identify potential problem gamblers so the casino could ensure they got help before their gambling became an issue. I was happy with this as a goal.

This column from Business Insider Australia looks at the some of the things that developers have been asked to do (that many of them have done) and raises very interesting questions that we all should be considering.

Read now

Staying Secure

Staying safe online and writing secure systems are both harder than we think.

ATMs spitting out cash

It sounds like the plot from some direct to DVD spy thriller, but the BBC reports that some attackers have managed to hack ATMs to empty their cash reserves on demand.

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Sometimes the answer is random.

Things programmers say

Ever heard a developer say “It works on my machine” or “This is just a temporary fix”? Have you said them yourself?

Have a read of this list - keep score of how many you’ve said. For what it’s worth, I’ve used ever single one from the list - that’s all 27. I’m not sure whether to be proud or ashamed …

Read now

Video of the Week

Take some time to feed your mind.

Dialup modem handshake sound

If you ever used the internet in the days before ADSL, you’ll be familiar with the sound of modem negotiation. This video shows a spectrogram of the process and is a good way to add to your understanding of what modem negotiation was all about.

The first thing you’ll spot is the dual-tone sounds of dialing.

Read now


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