In this episode from July 2016: What you can learn by tracking your bugs; Update 3 for Visual Studio 2015; the effect of illusory superiority; hacking via text message; user interface typography; and, the keynote from React 2014.

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.

Techniques

Lessons From 13 Years of Bugs

It seems that Henrik Warne has been keeping track of his challenging bugs for well over a decade - and from that list of 194 challenges, he’s compiled a list of 18 lessons that are relevant to every developer.

Read more

His earlier posts are both well worth the read.

Software and Updates

Visual Studio 2015 Update 3

The latest update for Visual Studio 2015 has been released. As usual, the update includes variety of fixes and new features, including:

  • Improvements to developer analytics
  • UX improvements when debugging XAML
  • Reduction in the frequency of license authentication
  • Significant performance improvements for C# code diagnostics
  • Reduction in memory footprint for C# code diagnostics

Read the release notes

Download

Being Professional

Illusory Superiority: Are You a Good Programmer?

Did you know that over 90% of drivers think they’re better than average? This oddity of the human mind has a name - it’s called Illusory Superiority and it affects every field, including software development.

Hayim Makabee’s blog post makes the case that those who are genuinely better developers have responsibilities to pass on what they know - to teach, share, review and help.

Interestingly, I’d suggest that those four characteristics are also invaluable for those who seek to improve. Don’t be miserly with what you know - be generous.

Read more

Staying Secure

Hackers are using this nasty text message trick to break into people’s accounts

Two-factor authentication is a vital way to secure important online accounts - combining something you know, like a password or passphrase, with something you have, often a smartphone or security keyfob.

Unfortunately, the least secure part of any system is usually the people involved, and attackers now have a cunning approach to provoke people into compromising their own accounts by text message.

The attack works like this:

  • Attacker sends a fake text to a user advising them of a security problem and asking them to respond with a two-factor authentication code to lock their account if they spot anything unusual.
  • Attacker then makes multiple attempts to log into the users account - say, for Google (though this can be used against any provider that uses two-factor authentication).
  • Google (or whichever provider) notices the repeated login attempts and texts the user to say “We think there might be a problem with your account.”
  • User gets text to say that something unusual is going on, decides to lock their account by sending their two-factor authentication code in response to the fake text
  • Attacker uses the code for a successful login and compromises the account

Lesson: Never share any two-factor authentication code except when entering it directly into a login prompt yourself.

Read more

Wildcard

Typography for User Interfaces

Our user interfaces might be known as “Graphical”, but they use a very large amount of text - and the readability of that text is vital to our users, though they likely don’t recognize this.

Learn more

Video of the Week

What does it mean to be Reactive?

The inimitable Erik Meijer delivering his opening keynote to the React 2014 conference.

Watch now

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