Scott Hanselman

What Great .NET Developers Ought To Know (More .NET Interview Questions)

February 21, '05 Comments [54] Posted in ASP.NET | Bugs | Corillian | HttpHandler | HttpModule | Learning .NET | NUnit | ViewState | Web Services | XmlSerializer
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A while back, I posted a list of ASP.NET Interview Questions. Conventional wisdom was split, with about half the folks saying I was nuts and that it was a list of trivia. The others said basically "Ya, those are good. I'd probably have to look a few up." To me, that's the right response.

Certainly I wasn't trying to boil all of .NET Software Development down to a few simple "trivia" questions. However, I WAS trying to get folks thinking. I believe that really good ASP.NET (and for that matter, WinForms) is a little [read: lot] more than just draging a control onto a designer and hoping for the best. A good race driver knows his car - what it can do and what it can't.

So, here's another list...a greatly expanded list, for your consumption (with attribution). I wrote this on a plane last week on the way from Boise to Portland. I tried to take into consideration the concerns that my lists contain unreasonable trivia. I tried to make a list that was organized by section. If you've never down ASP.NET, you obviously won't know all the ASP.NET section. If you're an indenpendant consultant, you may never come upon some of these concepts. However, ever question here has come up more than once in the last 4 years of my time at Corillian. So, knowing groking these questions may not make you a good or bad developer, but it WILL save you time when problems arise. 

What Great .NET Developers Ought To Know

Everyone who writes code

  • Describe the difference between a Thread and a Process?
  • What is a Windows Service and how does its lifecycle differ from a "standard" EXE?
  • What is the maximum amount of memory any single process on Windows can address? Is this different than the maximum virtual memory for the system? How would this affect a system design?
  • What is the difference between an EXE and a DLL?
  • What is strong-typing versus weak-typing? Which is preferred? Why?
  • Corillian's product is a "Component Container." Name at least 3 component containers that ship now with the Windows Server Family.
  • What is a PID? How is it useful when troubleshooting a system?
  • How many processes can listen on a single TCP/IP port?
  • What is the GAC? What problem does it solve?

Mid-Level .NET Developer

  • Describe the difference between Interface-oriented, Object-oriented and Aspect-oriented programming.
  • Describe what an Interface is and how it’s different from a Class.
  • What is Reflection?
  • What is the difference between XML Web Services using ASMX and .NET Remoting using SOAP?
  • Are the type system represented by XmlSchema and the CLS isomorphic?
  • Conceptually, what is the difference between early-binding and late-binding?
  • Is using Assembly.Load a static reference or dynamic reference?
  • When would using Assembly.LoadFrom or Assembly.LoadFile be appropriate?
  • What is an Asssembly Qualified Name? Is it a filename? How is it different?
  • Is this valid? Assembly.Load("foo.dll");
  • How is a strongly-named assembly different from one that isn’t strongly-named?
  • Can DateTimes be null?
  • What is the JIT? What is NGEN? What are limitations and benefits of each?
  • How does the generational garbage collector in the .NET CLR manage object lifetime? What is non-deterministic finalization?
  • What is the difference between Finalize() and Dispose()?
  • How is the using() pattern useful? What is IDisposable? How does it support deterministic finalization?
  • What does this useful command line do? tasklist /m "mscor*"
  • What is the difference between in-proc and out-of-proc?
  • What technology enables out-of-proc communication in .NET?
  • When you’re running a component within ASP.NET, what process is it running within on Windows XP? Windows 2000? Windows 2003?

Senior Developers/Architects

  • What’s wrong with a line like this? DateTime.Parse(myString);
  • What are PDBs? Where must they be located for debugging to work?
  • What is cyclomatic complexity and why is it important?
  • Write a standard lock() plus “double check” to create a critical section around a variable access.
  • What is FullTrust? Do GAC’ed assemblies have FullTrust?
  • What benefit does your code receive if you decorate it with attributes demanding specific Security permissions?
  • What does this do? gacutil /l | find /i "Corillian"
  • What does this do? sn -t foo.dll
  • What ports must be open for DCOM over a firewall? What is the purpose of Port 135?
  • Contrast OOP and SOA. What are tenets of each?
  • How does the XmlSerializer work? What ACL permissions does a process using it require?
  • Why is catch(Exception) almost always a bad idea?
  • What is the difference between Debug.Write and Trace.Write? When should each be used?
  • What is the difference between a Debug and Release build? Is there a significant speed difference? Why or why not?
  • Does JITting occur per-assembly or per-method? How does this affect the working set?
  • Contrast the use of an abstract base class against an interface?
  • What is the difference between a.Equals(b) and a == b?
  • In the context of a comparison, what is object identity versus object equivalence?
  • How would one do a deep copy in .NET?
  • Explain current thinking around IClonable.
  • What is boxing?
  • Is string a value type or a reference type?
  • What is the significance of the "PropertySpecified" pattern used by the XmlSerializer? What problem does it attempt to solve?
  • Why are out parameters a bad idea in .NET? Are they?
  • Can attributes be placed on specific parameters to a method? Why is this useful?

C# Component Developers

  • Juxtapose the use of override with new. What is shadowing?
  • Explain the use of virtual, sealed, override, and abstract.
  • Explain the importance and use of each component of this string: Foo.Bar, Version=2.0.205.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=593777ae2d274679d
  • Explain the differences between public, protected, private and internal.
  • What benefit do you get from using a Primary Interop Assembly (PIA)?
  • By what mechanism does NUnit know what methods to test?
  • What is the difference between: catch(Exception e){throw e;} and catch(Exception e){throw;}
  • What is the difference between typeof(foo) and myFoo.GetType()?
  • Explain what’s happening in the first constructor: public class c{ public c(string a) : this() {;}; public c() {;} } How is this construct useful?
  • What is this? Can this be used within a static method?

ASP.NET (UI) Developers

  • Describe how a browser-based Form POST becomes a Server-Side event like Button1_OnClick.
  • What is a PostBack?
  • What is ViewState? How is it encoded? Is it encrypted? Who uses ViewState?
  • What is the <machinekey> element and what two ASP.NET technologies is it used for?
  • What three Session State providers are available in ASP.NET 1.1? What are the pros and cons of each?
  • What is Web Gardening? How would using it affect a design?
  • Given one ASP.NET application, how many application objects does it have on a single proc box? A dual? A dual with Web Gardening enabled? How would this affect a design?
  • Are threads reused in ASP.NET between reqeusts? Does every HttpRequest get its own thread? Should you use Thread Local storage with ASP.NET?
  • Is the [ThreadStatic] attribute useful in ASP.NET? Are there side effects? Good or bad?
  • Give an example of how using an HttpHandler could simplify an existing design that serves Check Images from an .aspx page.
  • What kinds of events can an HttpModule subscribe to? What influence can they have on an implementation? What can be done without recompiling the ASP.NET Application?
  • Describe ways to present an arbitrary endpoint (URL) and route requests to that endpoint to ASP.NET.
  • Explain how cookies work. Give an example of Cookie abuse.
  • Explain the importance of HttpRequest.ValidateInput()?
  • What kind of data is passed via HTTP Headers?
  • Juxtapose the HTTP verbs GET and POST. What is HEAD?
  • Name and describe at least a half dozen HTTP Status Codes and what they express to the requesting client.
  • How does if-not-modified-since work? How can it be programmatically implemented with ASP.NET?
    Explain <@OutputCache%> and the usage of VaryByParam, VaryByHeader.
  • How does VaryByCustom work?
  • How would one implement ASP.NET HTML output caching, caching outgoing versions of pages generated via all values of q= except where q=5 (as in http://localhost/page.aspx?q=5)?

Developers using XML

  • What is the purpose of XML Namespaces?
  • When is the DOM appropriate for use? When is it not? Are there size limitations?
  • What is the WS-I Basic Profile and why is it important?
  • Write a small XML document that uses a default namespace and a qualified (prefixed) namespace. Include elements from both namespace.
  • What is the one fundamental difference between Elements and Attributes?
  • What is the difference between Well-Formed XML and Valid XML?
  • How would you validate XML using .NET?
  • Why is this almost always a bad idea? When is it a good idea? myXmlDocument.SelectNodes("//mynode");
  • Describe the difference between pull-style parsers (XmlReader) and eventing-readers (Sax)
  • What is the difference between XPathDocument and XmlDocument? Describe situations where one should be used over the other.
  • What is the difference between an XML "Fragment" and an XML "Document."
  • What does it meant to say “the canonical” form of XML?
  • Why is the XML InfoSet specification different from the Xml DOM? What does the InfoSet attempt to solve?
  • Contrast DTDs versus XSDs. What are their similarities and differences? Which is preferred and why?
  • Does System.Xml support DTDs? How?
  • Can any XML Schema be represented as an object graph? Vice versa?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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LogZipper.NET Log File Rotation

February 21, '05 Comments [0] Posted in
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Bill Brown is a Developer at Desert Schools Federal Credit Union. They're a very sharp group, and also a client of Corillian. Bill emailed us to share his LogZipper.NET Log Rotation application hosted at SourceForge. He's whipping out new releases with suggestions integrated pretty fast.

Here's what he told us:

I've developed a log rotation app called LogZipper.NET. It's a console application that takes a variety of command-line switches, collates log files defined by a user-specified pattern mask according to a user-specified rotation scheme, and optionally moves the archived log files to another destination folder.

Since it's entirely operated by command-line parameters, it can be scheduled using Windows Scheduler and multiple instances can exist on a server. It does a checksum on each log file that it zips and rotates so authenticity is guaranteed.

I'm all about the snazzy utilities, and I'm all about the command-line, so it's time for me to dig into this little util. Update: I see it's on Larkware.com today as well!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Fixing an XBox DVD Drive

February 19, '05 Comments [12] Posted in Gaming
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I've had a suspicion that my XBox's DVD Drive was on it's last legs. Ordinary games have been fine, but cheaper pressed discs with demos on them like the ones that come with the XBox Magazine constantly say there's errors.

Anyway, I ordered a replacement DVD Drive (my XBox is Hardware Version 1.0) from this guy for about $60. I was able to Paypal the money and the drive came in a few days.

I popped the XBox open with a Torx Screwdriver, and about 15 minutes later I was all hooked up again. Additionally, I got an ATA-100 IDE Cable and replaced the stock one, and I feel that the XBox's I/O is AT LEAST 30% faster than before. Games load so fast that some loading screens just flash then disappear. Fable, one of the worst loading screen offenders, has loading times now that are barely noticeable.

All that said, I'm thinking of getting an LCD 42" Samsung for TV and XBox, replacing our 32" Sony Wega. When I go to BestBuy I like the "look" of the LCD screens more than the Plasma. Everyone keeps saying "Get DLP!" but I'm just not feeling it. They seem big, they are a little dim to me, and their viewing radius both horizontally and definitely vertically seems limited. Am I missing something?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Free WiFi at Portland International Airport (PDX)

February 17, '05 Comments [2] Posted in
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PDXWirelessAccessI usually travel a LOT, but lately, not so much. We've been working on the Voyager SDK 2.0, the Messaging Platform for our Voyager product.

However, I'm sitting here in PDX Airport at the B Gates and I noticed "Free Wi-Fi" signs up all over. I'm used to paying T-Mobile by the minute when I'm in airports.

I'm always interested in how folks implement their Free WiFi. Often it's a captive portal, meaning your first HTTP Request is redirected to an internal site that provides you info and requires you to "sign" a disclaimer, then you're free to surf.

Take a look at the image to the right (click on it). The captive portal that PDX used is NICE. You get all the standard stuff, but also a map of where you are connected, as well as details about the airport and airport services.

We may be a second-tier city, but I have to give PDX Airport "big ups" for their implementation of features like this. It really is a world class airport.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Building your own Windows Media Center Edition 2005 Home Theater PC System

February 16, '05 Comments [21] Posted in Programming
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My co-worker Krishnan is truly the gadgeteer. He has more techie stuff than anyone I've ever known, including myself. He is also an expert on all things HD and Media-y. So, I asked him "should I buy a Media Center PC or build?" I had picked out a lovely $2500 system.

UPDATE - June 2005: Make sure your motherboard and case match. If you click on the D6 link below, be aware that depending on stock on hand Newegg.com may offer you a "similar" motherboard. For one reader they recommended an ATX mobo and Micro-ATX and that's not cool. Also, while note that the Ahanix D6 is not the 601. I currently recommend the LARGER standard ATX Ahanix 601. Make sure you measure as some of these cases are pretty deep.

He said that he just built one from scratch for around $1500. Here's what he did:

This system is totally HD ready, and Krishnan said he taped 11 hours of 1080i SuperBowl content into about 43gigs without a hitch. He's using it as his primary PVR now.

Does anyone know if you can somehow "coerce" or upgrade (laterally?) Windows XP Pro into being a Media Center machine? Perhaps my existing main machine (with specs better than these) could do double duty, without reinstalling, etc.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.