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.NET Hobbyist Programmer Staying Confused in a Busy World

How does a hobbyist programmer follow the ever-changing world of the .NET framework?  I chose to watch and wait.  It would have been easy to jump in, since I have had an MSDN subscription since the P1 version (anyone remember that?).  I switched to the Universal subscription when it became available.  So I have had the software available to me, but I never installed it.

Why?  Well mostly because of time.  I did not have the time available to learn it as I should.  I would have spent too much time flailing around rather than being effective.  I therefore chose to read, and I read a lot.  I scanned almost every MSDN article.  The Universal subscription gave me a free subscription to MSDN Magazine, so I read that too.  I have also been scanning the numerous .NET websites as they have sprung up over the last three years.  I have been capturing example source code and articles, leaving me with a 187MB reference library on my server.  That has proved to be useful, since authors have pulled down articles and code over time.

My current favorite .NET website is Code Project.  It is a vast resource in which to get lost.  This is closely followed by MSDN.  Of course, over the last 6-8 months, there have been the bloggers such as Scoble, Rory, Chris Anderson, Duncan Mackenzie, and about 300+ others who have offered explanations of things that have proved more useful than parsing the documentation.  Reading and learning has been critical, especially in staying away from that overwhelmed feeling when confronting the sheer size of the .NET Framework.

When you print out some of the articles, you get the opportunity to read away from the computer.  While a tablet PC would have been nice, when you drop paper on the floor of a bathroom stall, you are not concerned about breakage.  Also, paper can be folded and conveniently placed in a pocket.  I have a very large stack of printed articles.

The biggest obstacle to .NET adoption was that I was not running Windows XP.  My home machines had 98SE and ME.  It took me finding the time to get the server built (with Windows Small Business Server 2003 and all accessories) and running, data safely copied off the target machine, and then reformatting the hard disks to get Windows XP SP1a on it.  I did learn a good lesson: NEVER try to upgrade a machine to XP.  Wipe it slick and start fresh.  My ME to XP upgrade could not run Office 2003 because of problems with the Office Source Engine service not being able to start.  Since one the guys who wrote OSE had no idea what the problem was, I went the clean slate route.

Now that XP is up and running, I have VS2003 and MSDN installed.  My life is much happier since XP crashes less and is faster than the old setup.  I attribute much of the speed increase to dumping the excessive amount of software Dell feels they need to install to protect users from themselves.  With less stuff running in the background, my important stuff can run up front.

So how do you start with .NET?  I have chosen to write a reference WinForms application --- no pesky web apps or web services.  I have proven I can make a modest cash flow with VB6 and earlier languages, so I'll concentrate with what Microsoft is now basically ignoring.  My app will have robust error handling, logging, and other features --- it will just have no functionality.  Eventually, I'll use the shell routines I'll create to make my application, knowing that the infrastructure has already been vetted.

It will take time, but I'll get there.  It's taken me 25-1/2 years to get here since that fateful September day when I was bludgeoned into programming.  Let the fun begin.


Posted on Sunday, March 21, 2004 10:01 AM Programming | Back to top

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