VS Extensions – Writing Code To Write Code

It’s a phrase I’ve used many times:  Writing code to write code.  This time it was done to save my sanity.  As is pretty evident in my blog, I am a VB.NET developer.  Despite that, I can understand the shrinking usage of the language.  Many of the newer technologies are simply not supporting VB.NET.  And I guess to a certain degree, that’s fine.  VB.NET will continue in the arena it is well suited for, and it won’t for newer application designs and models.  So be it.

At my workplace, they’ve been a VB shop forever.  And I was the longest holdout on that technology, but I’ve finally caved in to the reality that we’re going to have to convert to C#.  It’s an ideal time as everything is kind of in a paused state.  So I’ve been evaluating code converters and one that I tried ran for over 30 hours on our primary desktop application, then crashed with a useless error.  in discussing this result with another developer, it was mentioned that C# is Option Strict always, which gave me an idea that the conversion was taking so long and maybe the crash was because the converter was attempting to resolve all the implicit conversions in the code.  That’s something we should clean up first on our own.

I had a grand idea many years ago to get the project Option Strict compliant and I remember when I turned the option on, I was floored by the number of errors that needed resolved.  You have to understand, this code is 15 years old, with a variety of developers at varying skill levels, and type safety has never been enforced.  Further, all the state was held in datatables (in which everything is an object) and there are a plethora of ComboBoxes and DataGridViews, where everything is an object, too.  So while bad coding practices were allowed, the architecture of the application worked against us as well.

When I committed to the fix and turned Option Strict on, I wasn’t prepared for the number of errors I had to fix.  It was over 10,000.  That’s 10k cases of implicit type conversion that need to be explicitly corrected.  And that’s the easy route.  Refactoring the code to actually use strong typing is essentially a rewrite.  That’s not possible.  I’m barely sure the refactoring is possible.  But, I can turn Option Strict back off and return at a later time if absolutely needed.,

After about 1500 instances of typing CInt and CStr and CBool, I finally had enough.  The difficult part was Ctrl-Shift-arrowing to get to the end of the element to be wrapped in the cast.  Sometimes it was easy, and I got quite quick at hitting End and a closing parens, but it wasn’t quick enough.  I needed to write an extension that would take whatever was highlighted and wrap it in a cast with a hotkey.  And so that’s what I wrote.

Now, with my mouse, I can double-click and drag to select full words, then with Shift-Alt and a key, I can wrap that code.  S for CStr, D for CDbl, B for CBool, etc.  My productivity grew exponentially.  Still though, I have about 8700 more fixes to get through.  A few full days of that and I should be good to go.

My, How Big You’ve Grown


There used to be a time when SQL Server was a database engine.  Setup of the product was easy.  You told it where to install, then you set up the service accounts.  Over time, the feature set of SQL Server grew and it became more of a suite of products.  This involved some more installation steps with more information to be gathered.

Somewhere around 2008, a significant change occurred with the SQL Server setup.  It involved pre-install checks, rule checks, confirmations, and other stages that significantly slowed down the install process.  What used to be a two minute wizard is now a process that can easily consume 15 minutes.  Add to the mix the growth of the feature set of SQL Server and the full install could take hours.

Following along the left of this post is a screenshot of the setup process.  We have three rule checks, one before you start, one after choosing the features to install, and one after you configure the features you want to install.  For my install, I chose “All features with defaults” thinking it would be the fastest and easiest.  Nope, I still had to run through all the steps.

The most annoying change to the install process is the rule checks.  Even if everything checks out, you still have to click Next on the wizard.  If it’s all good, why do I need to review it?  As mentioned before, this happens three times during installation.  It’s almost as if the setup program is saying, “Look at how hard I’m working.  See, I made you a big list of everything I did.”  It’s like an employee that isn’t confident of his work and has to document everything he does to justify what he’s done.

The feature growth of SQL Server has become outrageous as well:  Analysis Services, Reporting Services, Distributed Relay, Failover Clusters.  I would be very interested in seeing if SQL Server Express is selected more often just because the feature set is more realistic for most projects.

I am also curious to see if this post’s text is longer than the installation steps for SQL Server.  And I even tried to be more verbose so I could fill space.

And as it turns out, I didn’t write enough and the next post continued right next to the image.  I guess that’s a slight issue with the WordPress theme template.