Paging Dr. Campbell…

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The Co-host of .NET Rocks! Opens His Performance Diagnostic Toolbox for us, and for a Good Cause

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Contributed by Richard Campbell, Podcast, Dev Con, & Non-profit Rock Star

Richard Campbell—veteran developer, podcasting guru, Dev Con master (DEVIntersection!) and philanthropist— is like the Dr. House, M.D. of .NET applications. He’s also a super nice guy. Admitting that he doesn’t get to do a lot of “real work” these days, most of his time is spent speaking, teaching and helping a variety of companies troubleshoot their application issues.

“The reason my toolkit is full of instrumentation tooling is that I’m making sure that I’m working on the right thing. The thing that will provide the largest performance improvement in the least amount of time, because this is expensive time. This is time we’re not building features.”

Richard’s Dev Toolbox
Tools should be: Portable, Budget-Conscious, Fit for the Task

1. WebPageTest.org “99% of the problems I deal with are performance diagnostic problems. Why are these offices not communicating well? Why is this website so slow? Once you know what the problem is, the fix is not usually that bad,” he explained. Webpagetest.org is a free website for anybody. “You type a URL— specify where you want that website hit from, anywhere in the world. So it will give me a detailed waterfall analysis of loading that webpage from that location with that browser. Question 1: Is the website up? Is it up for everyone else? Why is the website slow? What does slow mean to you?”

2. Glimpse
Looking at other free tools, Campbell suggests Glimpse. “Performance analysis tools are often a challenge for the customer to buy. Playing with free tools helps them get started with that. Glimpse gives me better instrumentation to the web server, web browser interaction of an application.” New Relic and AppDynamics are products that he considers when he has time and money to spend. “These are detailed instrumentation tools, so now I’m actually installing bits into the application to measure each part of the application as it runs.”

3. Preemptive Analytics
One tool that many people don’t know about, Preemptive Analytics comes in the Visual Studio box as the free version of the product. Pre-Emptive Analytics provides real-time method profiling in production,” Campbell explains. “Each method called gets individually measured, so that you can find methods that are having a huge impact on performance because of how often they are called, and how long they run.”

A Better Toolbox for a Good Cause

“I’ve harnessed my ADD for the forces of good,” Campbell jokes, referring to his new passion project—Humanitarian Toolbox— as the hardest thing he’s ever created.

“Donating software for free is like a free puppy… it’s never actually free for whoever receives it,” he said. “With Humanitarian Toolbox, anyone can contribute to the projects. We worry about the detailed projecting planning so that developers can just develop. The projects live on GitHub so they are accessible to everyone. There are events run all over the world to contribute to the projects—we provide the pizza, you bring the coding. Folks get hooked on the contributing to the projects.”

Any charity can use it—all the code is freely downloadable on GitHub. And anyone can contribute as well. “I didn’t set out to build a charity, I was trying to solve the problem of letting developers contribute their time to a good cause. Today we’re a 501(c)3 charity building software for disaster relief and recovery. And the folks that contribute love that their efforts are helping to save lives.”

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