We sometimes do smaller .NET projects for our clients even though we are mostly a Java/JVM shop. Our key infrastructure stays the same for all projects – regardless of the platform. That means the .NET projects get integrated into our existing continuous integration (CI) infrastructure based on Jenkins. This works suprisingly well even though you need a windows slave and the MSBuild plugin.
One point you should think about is which testing framework to use. MSTest is part of Visual Studio and provides nice integration into the IDE. Using it in conjunction with Jenkins is possible since there is a MSTest plugin for our favorite CI server. One downside is that you need either Visual Studio itself or the Windows SDK (500MB download, 300MB install) installed on the build server in addition to .NET. Another one is that it does not work with the “Express” editions of Visual Studio. Usually that is not a problem for companies but it raises the entry barrier for open source or other non-profit projects by requiring relatively expensive Visual Studio licences.
In our scenarios NUnit proved much lighter and friendlier in installation and usage. You can easily bundle it with your sources to improve self-containment of the project and lessen the burden on the system and tools. If you plug the NUnit tool into the external tools-section of Visual Studio (which also works with Express) the integration is acceptable, too.
If you are not completely on the full Microsoft stack for you project infrastructure using Visual Studio, TeamCity, Sourcesafe et al. it is worth considering choosing NUnit over MSTest because of its leaner size and looser coupling to the Mircosoft stack.
Sometimes, we cannot choose what language to implement a project in. Be it because of environmental restrictions (everything else is programmed in language X) or just because there’s an existing code base that needs to be extended and improved. This is when our polyglot programming mindset will be challenged. In a recent project, we picked up the current incarnation of VisualBasic, a language most of us willfully forgot after brief exposure in the late nineties, more than 10 years ago.
So we ventured into the land of VisualEverything, installing VisualStudio (without ReSharper at first) and finding out about the changes in VisualBasic.NET compared to VisualBasic 6, the language version we used back in the days. Being heavily trained in Java and “javaesque” languages, we were pleasantly surprised to find a modern, object-oriented language with a state-of-the-art platform SDK (the .NET framework) and only little reminiscences of the old age. Microsoft did a great job in modernizing the language, cutting out maybe a bit too much language specific stuff. VisualBasic.NET feels like C# with an uninspired syntax.
Making the transition
To ease our exploration of the language features of VisualBasic.NET, one of our student workers made a comparison table between Java and VisualBasic.NET. This cheat sheet helped us tremendously to wrap our heads around the syntax and the language. The platform SDK is very similar to the Java API, as you can see in the corresponding sections of the table. And because it helped us, it might also help you to gain a quick overview over VisualBasic.NET when you are heading from Java.
I have to thank Frederik Zipp a lot for his work. My only contribution to this cheat sheet is the translation from german to english. I can only try to imagine his effort of putting everything together. And while you might read the whole comparison in about 21 minutes (as stated in the title), it’s worth several hours of searching.
And without much further ado, here are the download links for the HTML and PDF versions of the “Java vs. VisualBasic.NET cheat sheet”:
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