Monday, October 3, 2011

Inlining in .NET

I spent some time today debugging a huge, huge function. I remember one of the quotes a professor of mine told me about function length. It might of been about class length, actually.

"Never write a function longer than your screen."

I think its a good rule. There's something to be said for being able to sum up a piece of code just by looking at it. Did you know that .NET does the same thing behind the scenes? And that it has trouble with huge functions?

Enter Inlining

From what i understand, back in the C++ days, programmers used to be able to specify what functions would be embedded into the calling function. The advantage was one less function that the execution would have to call--because on execution of a function "some stuff happens" that i'm not going to go into here. The point i'm trying to make is that if you didn't call that function, you wouldn't have to do "that stuff." So, instead of putting that piece of reusable code in every place they wanted it to go, they kept DRY and marked it to be inlined--for the compiler to manually place it in every place it was called.

.NET Inlines for You

It's true. .NET will inline your code for you during JIT if it deems it a good place to do so. But here's the catch: if you're writing functions that are miles long, there's no chance whatsoever that .NET can inline it and you'll never get the performance benefits of letting .NET upgrade your code.

Keep It Simple

Write functions that do one thing, really well. Make them reusable, testable pieces, and short enough that even .NET can sum them up...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Repository Pattern

I'm not sure if Martin Fowler conceptualized the repository pattern, but his book Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture (PoEAA) is where I first came across the definition:

"Mediates between the domain and data mapping layers using a collection-like interface for accessing domain objects."

He has very carefully selected his words. I have my own definition. Consider it the layman's version:

"Separates data from its source." 

Let's dig into an example.

The Repository Pattern in .NET

Every .NET programmer has written some sort of code that accesses a database or web service and returns something. Traditionally, the ever-present n-tier/three-tier philosophy dictates that the code for that should be in its own package/layer, the data access layer. What that philosophy does not dictate is the method signature and the return type; they're extremely important. Let's look at your traditional DAL:

What will the dev on this project do if the People DB gets outsourced and is now accessed via webservice? Convert the web service return into datasets, or change all the business layer classes to work with whatever the new return is? Or, what if they change to a db that doesnt easily convert into datasets? Not a great position to be in... Why not change it to something more generic that will never change?...

Here's a look at the repository pattern implementation:

Notice how this implementation could survive through any sort of data source change because it is using "a collection-like interface"? Much more maintainable.

The Repository Pattern in JavaScript

JavaScript's implementation would need to take into account the fact that AJAX requests (or all node.js functions) are meant to happen asynchronously. In order to allow for this, all we really need to do is implement the callback pattern, which really just boils down to passing an extra function.

That's it!