Thursday, December 14, 2006

Convincing Prospective Employers that your Delphi skills are relevent to C# / VB / .Net

So you know Delphi and find yourself in the job queue again. The Delphi job postings are much less than last time you were looking, and some of them are for converting to .Net. How do you go about crosstraining to .Net, and convincing prospective bosses that your skills are transferrable ?
  1. One answer lies above; look for jobs involving converting Delphi projects to C# (or Java, if that interests you). They'll value your Delphi skills and pay you to learn another language.
  2. Look into certification. There is a whole industry around training towards MCSD and MCAD, both at home with books, or via training courses. In my experience, books are a far more effective and much cheaper way to learn anything substantial.
  3. Provide a Delphi to C# comparison with your resume.
  4. At least start working towards MCSD, and say that you are in interviews and in your resume. That sounds like you are serious and approaching this crosstraining in a professional manner. Also, I would guess that whether you are 10% or 80% towards finishing would make little difference to many employers.
  5. Start a real world project eg. get involved in an open source project, or build an ASP.Net website. I started this with www.seekdotnet.com and was impressed with their SQL Server package features and price, but can't speak for the quality of their service as I haven't launched my site yet. Again, mention this in your resume and in interviews.
  6. A website project (more than a Windows Forms project) is particularly impressive as they can very easily try it out and see that you're capable of creating something real.
  7. Read books about resume writing eg. "What Colour is Your Parachute" is the classic. Spend days on your resume. A day spent on it could equal a month worth of waiting for job ads to appear, waiting for them to get back to you etc.
  8. Research companies you would like to work for. Microsoft provides a listing of "Partners" on its website, which is a pretty complete list of .Net shops in your area. Get a directory of your local "technology park" or precinct. Look for government innovation development programs, and the list of companies that may provide.
  9. Don't just wait for job ads to appear. Print out your resume, dress up, and approach them. My theory here is that when job ads are written, critieria is decided upon based on their ideal employee with phrases such as "12 months .Net experience". Immediately you are behind with your measley 2 weeks of .Net experience. When are face to face with them in their office however, you are a real person and they can judge your character, enthusiasm etc and may even make a position for you that didn't previously exist. They may not have time to go through with the hassle of advertising when really they need you, or they may be just about to advertise. I did this for about 4 days and got one 4 week C# contract followed by a job offer, 1 call encouraging me to apply for a new position and one email asking me if I was still looking for work, 4 weeks later. This was after 3 months of answering job ads with little response. By the way, my new job still came from answering an ad.
  10. Keep all job ads that interest you, even ads for the wrong job but the right sort of company. They may be worth approaching later, and may contain important info such as the name of a manager to call. Having someone to ask for is an easy way to get past a difficult receptionist. Also, if you were the second best candidate this time, you might get the job next time. Resist the urge to resent that they didn't choose you.
  11. Companies using Delphi, past and present are still your friend. They will be easy to convince that your Delphi skills are valuable, even if they no longer use it. My 4 week C# contract was with a previosly Delphi based company, and my current boss has done some serious Turbo Pascal work in the past.
Good luck !

Friday, December 08, 2006

Alternative to SUBST: Local Network Shares

Over the past few years I have set up 2 software teams with associated tools, file structures and processes in different companies.
Of high importance is the structure of the respository in the Version Control System.

Both times I have been aiming for :
  1. ability for the developer to have multiple local working copies, and flexibility to locate their working copies in any folder on any drive.
  2. consistency across all developer machines
  3. ability to use and version control the files of any tool, and have those files be usable by other developers
  4. all necessary files under a single root.

Currently we are working with Subversion and TortoiseSVN, NAnt and CruiseControl.Net. Our code is in C# and C++.

The above has been achieved and working well using the Windows SUBST command to create a drive R: (for repository) under which all files are stored. Under this the folders are projects, tools, thirdparty, total (for the build) and rnd (for Research aNd Development).

When I upgraded to V1.4 of Tortoise however, the icons indicating file status (up to date, modified, added etc) began behaving strangely. On reading the Tortoise list (subject: "TortoiseSVN Bug with overlay icons on network drives") I see from Stefan K√ľng gmail.com> :
> The status cache can't work reliably with SUBST drives! The cache works
> by monitoring the filesystem for changes. Every change fires an event
> which the cache catches and acts accordingly. But if you have a SUBST
> drive, then even though you have two (or more) paths that point to the
> very same location on the filesystem, only one event is fired. Which
> means you will *always* get unpredictable result
Later    dfa.com> says :
Just a suggestion, but have you tried loopback mounting a network drive?
Share the folder you create a subst of as a private share (end the share
name with $), read/write only by the user (or read/write only by the
machine, if you prefer), and mount that network drive as another drive
letter. I used to use subst too, but found that too many programs broke
with it. Never had a problem with the loopback network drive.
Hey! I never thought of that !

So I tried it, and hit the next problem : .Net's Code Access Security. Any mounted network share (even from your own machine) is treated as of the "Local Intranet" security zone, which is by default of "medium trust". This isn't good enough for some things, such as NAnt and Visual Studio.

After further digging, and thanks to the references below I now have my local share R: drive fully trusted, without affecting the rest of the local intranet zone.

Here's the answer :
  1. Share the folder you want to mount
  2. Map a drive letter to it.
  3. execute the following lines in a dos shell or batch file :
C:\WINDOWS\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v1.1.4322\CasPol.exe -q -pp off -machine -addgroup 1 -url file://R:/* FullTrust -name "Drive_R" -description "R: Local Network Drive"
C:\WINDOWS\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v2.0.50727\CasPol.exe -q -pp off -machine -addgroup 1 -url file://R:/* FullTrust -name "Drive_R" -description "R: Local Network Drive"
each line adds the policy for a different version of .Net. Each version's security operates independently.

Now it just needs a batch file to be able to do :

MapDrive R: D:\Repos\DriveR

Maybe another day...

References
  1. Using CasPol to Fully Trust a Share
  2. How Do I...Script Security Policy Changes?
  3. Getting CLR Security Right - Seeing Double