Tag Archives: software

NDepend: A short review

NDepend is a tool I’d heard about for years, but had yet to really dive into recently. Thanks to the good folks developing it, I was able to try out a copy and have been analyzing my own projects with it.

Here’s a brief run-down of my initial experience with it.


There is no installation file—everything is packaged into a zip. After running, I was greeted by a project selection screen, in which I created a new project and added some assemblies. NDepend main screen


Once you have all the assemblies you want to analyze selected, you can run the analysis, which generates both an HTML report with graphics, and an interactive report that you can use to drill down into almost any detail of your code. Indeed, it’s almost overwhelming the amount of detail present in this tool.

One graph you see almost immediately is Abstractness Vs. Instability.

Abstractness vs. Instability

This is a good high-level overview of your entire project at the assembly level. Basically, what this means is that assemblies that are too abstract and unstable are potentially useless and should be culled, while assemblies that are concrete and stable can be hard to maintain. Instability is defined in the help docs in terms of coupling (internal and external), while abstractness is the ratio of abstract types to total types in an assembly.

This is followed by the dependency graph:

Dependency graph

After these graphics come lots of reports that dig into your code for all sorts of conditions.

For example, the first one in my report was “Quick summary of methods to refactor".” That seems pretty vague, until you learn how they determine this. All the reports in NDepend are built off of a SQL-like query language called CQL (Code Query Language). The syntax for this is extremely easy. The query and result for this report are:


With very little work on my part, I instantly have a checklist of items I need to look at to improve code quality and maintainability.

There are tons of other reports: methods that are too complex, methods that are poorly commented, have too many parameters, to many local variables, or classes with too many methods, etc. And of course, you can create your own (which I demonstrate below).

Interactive Visualization

All of these reports are put into the HTML report. But as I said, you can use the interactive visualizer to drill down further into your code.

The first thing you’re likely to see is a group of boxes looking like this:


These boxes show the relative sizes of your code from the assembly level down to the methods. Holding the mouse over a box will bring up more information about the method. You can also change the metric you’re measuring by—say to cyclomatic complexity.

Another view, perhaps the most useful of all is the CQL Queries view. In this, you can see the results from all of hundreds of code queries, as well as create your own. For instance, I can see all the types with poor cohesion in my codebase:


In this view, the CQL queries are selected in the bottom-right, and the results show up on the left. The metrics view highlights the affected methods.

Creating a query

Early in the development of my project, I named quite a few classes starting with a LB prefix. I’ve changed some of them, but I think there are still a few lying around and I want to change them as well. So I’ll create CQL query to return all the types that begin with “LB.”

   1: // <Name>Types beginning with LB</Name>
   3:  NameLike "LB" AND     
   4:  !IsGeneratedByCompiler AND 
   5:  !IsInFrameworkAssembly     

NDepend_LB That’s it! You can see the results to the right. It’s ridiculously easy to create your own queries to examine nearly any aspect of your code. And that’s if the hundreds of included queries don’t do it for you. In many ways, the queries are similar to the analysis FxCop does, but I think CQL seems generally more powerful (while lacking some of the cool things FxCop has).


VS and Reflector Add-ins

NDepend has a couple of extras that enable integration of Visual Studio (2005 and 2008) and NDepend and Reflector. When you right-click on an item in VS, you will have some additional options available:


Clicking on the submenu gives you options to directly run queries in NDepend. Very cool stuff.

Summary and where to get more info

If you are at all interested in code metrics, and how good your code is behaving, how maintainable it is, you need this tool. It’s now going to be a standard part of my toolbox for evaluating the quality of my code and what parts need attention.

If you’re using NDepend for personal and non-commercial reasons, you can download it for free. It doesn’t have all the features, but it has more than enough. Professional use does require a license.

One of the things I was particularly impressed with was the amount of help content available. There are tons of tutorials for every part of the program.

I’m going to keep playing with this and I’m sure I’ll mention some more things as I discover them. For now, NDepend is very cool—it’s actually fun to play with, and it gives you good information for what to work on.


Virtual PC 2007 Tips and Tricks


This release of Virtual PC 2007 SP1 provides updates to existing features and introduces support for the following:

  • Windows Vista with Service Pack 1 (SP1) Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise operating systems as a host operating system

  • Windows Vista with SP1 Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise as a guest operating system

  • Windows Server 2008 Standard as a guest operating system

  • Windows XP with Service Pack 3 as both a guest and host operating system

  • Read The Virtual PC Guy’s Weblog
  • If you need, say, two virtual machines, one with Windows Vista and one with Windows Vista SP1, install Vista onto a new machine, then copy the machine files and install SP1 on one copy–much faster than installing Vista twice.
  • Need a screen shot of what’s in the virtual machine? Look at the Edit menu and choose “Select All” then “Copy”–a bitmap of the VM window will be on the clipboard. (This is how I got the capture of my BASIC graphics output from a previous post).

Software Pick: SyncMyCal

With the acquisition of a Blackberry I wanted to be able to sync both my work and home Outlook setups to the Blackberry (and to each other). I tried a number of free tools (though they aren’t that easy to find) and quickly concluded I would need a better solution.

Enter SyncMyCal. It’s easy, it’s cheap (only $25), and you can try for free. I rarely have duplicated events, and I don’t have to think about it ever–it just WORKS.

How it works: SyncMyCal synchronizes an Outlook calendar with a Google calendar. First I created a Google calendar, then I set up SyncMyCal on both work and home computers. I set the home computer to take priority in conflicts, but at work I set the Google calendar to take priority over Outlook–this way there’s a hierarchy of priority that helps to prevent unresolvable conflicts and duplicates.

I bought it days before Google released their Outlook sync tool, but SyncMyCal can do a lot more and I don’t regret the purchase one bit.

The latest version also syncs contacts, but I haven’t used that yet.

Announcing: GeekSoftworks.com

I’ve setup a new domain for a front page for my software hobbies and what will eventually be my “store front”:

Geek Softworks

It uses WordPress, but it’s not a blog–it’s for the software I write. So far, only a few products are up, including DiskSlicer (a new version!), Windows Media Top 10 Plugin, and Word Count for Windows Live Writer.

I also setup forums for those projects. The site is still pretty small, but it’s functional and it will grow.

Thanks for looking!

Please help with Word Count Plugin

I was taking a look at the download page for my Word Count Plugin for Windows Live Writer.

It’s gotten a few hundred downloads (thanks!), but the single review is actually spam. Unfortunately, I can’t remove it or even report the review from my account since it’s my own software.

Plea for help: Can a helpful reader out there please report this review as spam and request it to be removed? Also, could someone out there who does use Live Writer write a real review of the plug-in?

If you have further ideas to improve it, please let me know.

How to enable Simple Tags support in Windows Live Writer

I’m using Simple Tags to do the tags on this site. I wanted to enable support for these tag links in Windows Live Writer (it beats having to log in and edit each post after publishing).

Quite easy:

  1. Click on Insert Tags
  2. In the Tag Provider combo, scroll to the bottom where it says (Customize Providers…) and select that. It brings up another dialog.
  3. Click Add…
  4. Here’s what I entered for my site:

HTML Template: <a href=”https://www.philosophicalgeek.com/tag/{tag-encoded}” title=”{tag}” rel=”tag”>{tag}</a>


Now you can select Simple Tags as your tag provider.

Word Count Plugin for Windows Live Writer

I’ve fixed one of the biggest holes in functionality in Windows Live Writer. It’s simple, but essential: the ability to count words (and characters and paragraphs) in  your posts before publishing.

Windows Live Writer doesn’t really offer a way to extend the menu system itself, but you can create an “Insert…” plugin that just analyzes content instead of creates it, so it works pretty well.

Go get it from Windows Live Gallery. Let me know what you think!

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20 Things to do when the Internet goes down

Even if the Internet connection goes out, your computer does not become a dumb brick. There were days these last few days where I didn’t bother turning it on. Then I realized all the things I could still do.

(My home Internet connection finally came back this morning. I’m bit upset that they didn’t figure it out earlier. It turned out that the first technician grossly misdiagnosed the problem. He put in an order for a new drop to be put in. Turned out it was just a broken modem. Why didn’t they try that earlier? Worse, why didn’t I think of it earlier. To be honest, I did think of it, but didn’t push it. Now I just need to get my money back from Comcast.)

Without further ado, here’s my suggestions for what to do when the Internet goes out:

On the computer:

  1. Organize photos in Picasa – I have nearly 6,000 photos on my computer. Many of them need to be deleted, organized, tagged, labeled, e-mailed, etc. (Yes, e-mailed–I can queue them in Outlook until the connection comes back).
  2. Organize My Documents – I’ve let My Documents folder get very messy. Lots of files that don’t need to be there anymore. Others need to be filed, or re-filed.
  3. Organize e-mail – I’ve got hundreds of folders in Outlook. I’ve tried to keep my Inbox empty and put things into @Action, @Someday, or @WaitingFor folders before they find a permanent home, but sometimes it still gets out of hand.
  4. Organize and fill in information in Windows Media Player. I still have music tagged with the wrong genre…
  5. Program. I’ve got two major programming projects I’m working on. They don’t depend on the Internet. The Internet is NICE if you need to learn something, but there’s always plenty of stuff to do that doesn’t require it. Write unit tests, run code coverage, design graphics, do all the other stuff if you must.
  6. Write e-mails to family. Long ones. Your mom will thank you.
  7. Catch up on podcasts. I got through ten episodes of Ask a Ninja, and nearly all backlogged podcasts. Now I’ll have a flood when I sync tonight.
  8. Write blog entries. I use Windows Live Writer. I should have done more of this.
  9. Play a game.
  10. Better, write a game.
  11. Setup appointments and events in Outlook for the next year.
  12. Read some classic programming texts.
  13. General computer maintenance. Defrag your disk, delete temp files, delete old installation files you haven’t used in 5 years (yes, I have some of those…). Use DiskSlicer to find where your space is going.
  14. Do long-avoided projects. I have approximately 20 hours of audio I need to edit and split into tracks. I’ve been putting it off for a very long time.

Off the Computer:

  1. Practice the piano.
  2. Read books. I’ve just started Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. Very good, so far. Go buy it. If you’re a geek, you’ll like it. How can you not love a 2 page diversion into the mathematics of when a bike chain will interfere with a broken spoke and fall off? Other than the geekiness, it’s a good story.
  3. Learn to cook a new dish.
  4. Do crosswords.
  5. Exercise.
  6. Relax.

Or just go to the library and use the Internet. I only did this a few times, despite it being within walking distance from where I live.

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I’ve been meaning to write about this software for a while. When I started my current job, all software development was done by an outside contractor. I quickly took over, and that necessitated implementing a lot of tools and procedures to handle our large C++ and C# code base.

Choosing Subversion for source control was easy–free, open source, better than VSS and CVS.

Bug tracking software was a little harder. There are a lot of packages out there. I eventually decided on a great little package called BugTracker.Net. It’s written by a gentleman named Corey Trager who does it in his spare time. It’s a very simple system, and doesn’t provide a lot of the heavy-weight features of more complete packages, but if you’re a small team (like I’m in), then it could be perfect. I really appreciate Corey’s web-site, because he acknowledges that it’s not written with every scenario in mind. In fact, he even publicizes comparisons of his system with other popular tracking systems out there.

That said, there is a good degree of customizability in it, and it really was easy to setup, upgrade, configure, and customize.

Some of the features:

Suitable for tracking helpdesk customer support tickets as well as software bugs.

Sending and receiving emails is integrated with the tracker, so that the email thread about a bug is tracked WITH the bug.

Allows incoming emails to be recorded as bugs. So, for example, an email from your customer could automatically be turned into an bug/ticket in the tracker.

Allows you to attach files and screenshots to bugs. There is even a custom screen capture utility [screenshot] that lets you take a screenshot, annotate it, and post it as a bug with just a few clicks. (inspired by Fogbugz)

Add your own custom fields.

Custom bug lists, filtered and sorted the way you want, with the columns that you want.

You can display bugs of a certain priority and/or status in a different color, so that the most important items grab your attention.

Configure different user roles to see different lists of bugs. For example, a developer might see a list of open bugs. A QA analyst might want to see a list of bugs ready for testing.

(and more…)

Like I said, if you’re a small team that just needs to coordinate on issues, this platform could be perfect.

(BTW, this is not a sponsored post–I just want to point out some software that I like).