Tag Archives: Microsoft

New England GiveCamp 2014 Recap

I spend the weekend of April 4-6 at New England GiveCamp, a weekend hackathon that pairs tech and design people with charities in the Boston and New England region.

This year, I worked for Generations Inc., a Boston-based charity that pairs senior citizens as literacy tutors for children.

The process they used for accepting volunteer applications was time- and labor-intensive. Basically, they used the Job Manager WordPress plugin to accept applications, which went into their WordPress install as a custom post type.

Then, a staff member would have to re-enter all that information into Salesforce, which they use to track volunteers, clients and related assignments.

Since Salesforce is the endpoint for managing all of Generations Inc.’s relationships, they wanted a way to take online applications and put them directly into Salesforce. So that was my project for the weekend.
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New England GiveCamp 2013 This Weekend

I’ll be attending New England GiveCamp 2013 this weekend.

GiveCamp is a way for technical people and designers to donate their time to worthy nonprofits. Organized by Jim O’Neil and Kelley Muir and hosted at Microsoft’s New England Research and Development center on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus, New England GiveCamp is in its fourth year.

This year I’ll again be working with The Esplanade Association. Last year, I was the leader of the team that revamped their website. It’s a real pleasure to work with them again.

Over the weekend, we’ll be working on an interactive map, probably built on the Google Maps API, of the Esplanade’s many amenities and features. The fellows assigned to this task are already full of ideas and getting to work, so once again, I’ve been very fortunate to have highly motivated, very capable team members assigned to our task.

It’s probably going to be another hectic, exciting weekend. Can’t wait!

All links in this post on delicious: https://delicious.com/dougvdotcom/new-england-givecamp-2013-this-weekend

Microsoft’s Advice On Avoiding SQL Injection Attacks

Not to kiss my own ass, but Microsoft’s official advice on avoiding SQL injection attacks sounds awfully familiar to readers of this blog:

Sanitize (validate) all inputs: “This helps to ensure that the input is free from characters that cause SQL injection attacks.” It also allows you to fix the form and data type of the user input, which pretty much renders basic script kiddie attacks useless.

Parameters, not strings, as query variables: “Creating dynamic queries using string concatenation potentially allows an attacker to execute an arbitrary query through the application.”

In other words, it’s harder to break this:

@person VARCHAR(20); SELECT * FROM table WHERE person = @person;

than it is to break this:

SELECT * FROM table WHERE person = 'some user string';

Stored procedures, not free-form queries:Stored procedures by themselves do not remove SQL injection vulnerabilities. They only raise the bar on the attacker by hiding much of the underlying database schema.” That is, the attacker can’t easily find out what columns are in a table, or what type of data is in those columns, if you use a stored procedure.

Minimal permissions: “In general, database applications should be using a low-privileged account that has the minimum permissions required to execute the statements submitted to SQL Server.” As in, create a user in your SQL database whose only permission set is to execute your Web-based stored procedures, and connect to the database server as that user.

Those are the basics. And if you don’t understand how to do them, I’ll be putting together a blog series on how to convert your old string-queried Web applications into one secured with stored procedures and proper permissions.

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Basic Advice For Learning Computer Programming

Some time ago, I received the following e-mail:

Hello
I am interested in getting into computers and designing software and websites. You said in a yahoo post that you did not get a degree but learned everything yourself. How did you do this? Where did you get your information from?
Thanks

My reply:

I started out by playing with Web pages. Then, as people asked me to make things for them, I searched on the Web for examples of how to do it, or read self-help books (think “For Dummies,” “Sams Teach Yourself” and Wrox softcovers) to teach myself how to do things.

If you want to make a career of Web development, my recommendation would be to do so in a more orderly manner than “learn as you go along.”

I would say this: Designing a Web site, and programming it, are two very different skill sets. You can be good at both, and great at one, but it is very difficult to be great at both. Design is left-brain, programming is right-brain.

That doesn’t mean you can’t do both; it means that you should expect to specialize either in design or programming. You may be that rare person who can master both, but expect that one or the other will be your actual focus.
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