October 30, 2006

When too much is TOO MUCH

I've just got back online at home today. My PC has been waiting on a new power supply until today, got it in and all is well. Updated to Firefox 2.0 and all is grand.

I've decided that the people who run the famous teeny site TheirSpace should really control the level of content their users can post on a page. I'm serious. People don't know when they've reached a level of I have enough content on this page. What's that? You want to add something new to your page? Well then, replace something that has been on their for a month or more, no one will miss it.

Why do I complain? I have super high speed cable internet. I can surf (with my handydandy Firefox browser) at the speed of type and I don't want to be slowed down by even the faint reminder of my old dial-up days. I've recently been to a couple of old friends sites at that space and it takes for-freakin'-ever to load.

I say we should petition to have the profiles squeezed for bandwidth or stop visiting those friends' sites until they figure out that they need to clean it up.

Oh and by the way, thank goodness for AdBlock in my Firefox, it helps cut out some of the trash in that space and other ad driven sites.

Until next time
Les

Content is King

Revver puts money where its talent is: "YouTube was sold for $1.65 billion, and not a dime went to the content creators who helped make the site famous. While the founders of YouTube pocket perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars"

This article actually raises a valid point for any content provider out there. When can your creation make someone else lots of money and not get you a dime? Really makes me wonder how much money the blog authers at blogger were paid when Google bought Blogger from Pyra. Video, music, text, lyrics, and even custom recipes. There are places all over the net that offer ways to share this info freely, but since you get to use a free service you also get no financial return on that input. That's not that big of a deal, but something to think about anytime you put your baby out there for the world to see. You never know when you'll be the next Star Wars Kid.

Until next time
Les

October 25, 2006

Signs of World Series

Ok, fans are fans and sometimes they can make a fool of their team, but sometimes they really pull through and make you realize just how much you wish you were there instead of at home watching.

Here's a couple of signs from fans at World Series Game 3 (won by the Cardinals 5-0), [images are AP photos compliments of Yahoo!]:


Now if you have to ask then you obviously missed Game 2 and live under a rock. It was noted during the first inning that the Tigers' hot pitcher Mr. gambler (Kenny Rogers) had a bit of a dirty hand. After being asked by the home plate ump he cleaned it up before inning 2 and went on to pitch well the rest of the game.


I'm not going to belly ache about the game, he pitched well after the cleaning, but I will say I don't believe his hand was just dirty.

Until next time
Les

October 16, 2006

Feeding the Machine Part 2: agile or nimble?

Some people have heard me come down on xp (eXtreme Programming) and assume that I am also anti-agile. At first glance that may be true, but that's just because I'm not a big fan of any method that takes more than one book and 2 seminars to grasp (I already have a degree, unless you plan on giving me a Masters I'm done with the seminars). But overall I'd say I'm a fan of Agile practices. I'm a big fan of doing things the easiest way, even if that means for now it's a pain in the neck but I know that next year I won't have a problem working with it. I believe people should make themselves better, but most of all I wish they'd just do a good job.

I'm not going to sit here and go over the agile manifesto with pros and cons and my 3 cents on them. I will say though that it wouldn't be a bad thing to go over from time to time and see if you can apply to known problem areas you have. But don't let it be your only compass, far be it from any sane, logical person to think that that little list of suggestions is the only resource that can be used to improve your daily work routine.

I'd say that overall I'm a very agile developer, but don't try and weigh me against the text book, it won't add up. I do like test-driven-development and think that all code written for any framework should have a living contract in the form of a unit-test that proves it does what you expected it to do. I even think that if you can you should use test-first development, but I can't presently go into my thoughts on how that isn't always the best thing to do (in other words that's too many words for an aside in this post). I like iterative development; but seriously, it only works if you have iterative testing going on in tandem with integration, otherwise you have an iterative waterfall that may as well have been waterfall but upper-level management prefers the buzz words so iterative development it is (with waterfall testing).

Don't get me wrong, I know I'm relatively young and new to the programming world, but in my brief stint between college and my current job I did some web development with a small company (small being the guy who started the company and me, and .... oh right, that was it). I did several small business web sites/apps that I was lucky enough to have time to start and finish there. They were pretty much all attacked from a waterfall standpoint, but I tried to get iterative use from the clients when I could. One app in particular that was a very prime cut for a young coder such as myself was almost more than I could handle, but one of the best teachers I could have had in my young career. It was a billing application for a ... well, no details please.

Needless to say it was a way for this company to manage clients and to allow their clients to log in and submit their clients for billing. It had a reporting function that printed out these neat little mail outs that I was so proud... right, I said no details. Well, on the technical side it was an ASP (classic, none of that dotnet stuff) app with VBScript talking to a MS SQL Server in the background. Starting the development process we had to right idea: meet with the clients, go over the way their system currently works (all paper and fax machine), get base requirements and client direction, fill them in on what our abilities and vision were and get the thing started.

Well, upon meeting with the clients we found that they had less time and interest in sharing their app features with us than they needed to have. It seemed all they really wanted was for us to write their app and they would use it, end of story. So we mostly had email correspondence and the occasional phone conference, but really these people didn't want to be reached. Why didn't we drop the project at this point? Well, for a 2 man company, 1 guy straight outta college and the other teaching college courses on the side, we couldn't let the project price we had all agreed on slip away (which looking back was way too cheap for what we did, 'doh!).

So what we had was a shabby set of here's what we do and a goal (the good news was no real deadline). So I took off, designed the database wrote screens, tied it all together with VBScript and I was rolling.

We got a working product going, we knew it wasn't finished, but we thought we'd accomplished a ton. Finally setup a meeting with the ever elusive clients and show off their new rig.

They're not pleased. It doesn't do this, and this isn't supposed to work like that, and why can't we see this? Being young and broke and stupid I didn't realize devastating that meeting was. So I went back to the drawing board. Re-worked the database to make all the relational data more relational and tore my app to pieces and used what was left to code what our latest meeting went over.

Again, working product. Present to clients. Go over why it's not what they wanted.

You see the pattern. It was a waterfall going dry and if I hadn't been so young in the business I would've talked the partner into giving them what we had and taking what little money we could and shake the dust off. But I worked it until it was finished and acceptable. But really, should it be that hard? No. Although, I think that with those clients I could have tried to enforce more methodologiesand tighter contracts but I don't think we would've landed the contract either. So we did what we had to.

Looking back on that I do have to say that I love a handful of agile practices and think that we could all use a refresher on how to make ourselves better programmers. But we can't forget that at the end of the day it isn't about how well we followed the process, but "how well did we write the program?".

Until next time,
Les

October 15, 2006

Feeding the Maching: buzz words and tech speak

Watch out! You've recently been swept into a post Cobol tech job and you find yourself being bombarded by catch phrases and buzz words that are supposed to make your job easier and healtier. When in fact the main people being supported by such sensationalistic terminology are the very same people asking you to pay out the {explitive here} at thier latest and greatest seminars and conventions. Yes you guessed it, I'm referring to consultants, but as a disclaimer I'd like to say here I don't think this applies to all consultants, but there are those out there that have made a bad name for themselves and alas the good ones as well.

Before getting all up in arms about what I've said, let's dig a little into the logic (in my mind) behind what i've just penned. Sensational tech speak is an easy thing to get caught up in. Heck, I've been there myself. Throwing out the buzz words from the latest technology/framework like I was serving up franks at the world series. But lets face it. Who has the most to gain from such sensationalism in the tech world? Is it your job/framework/daily routine? Or is it the companies and authors who have made it their money maker to sell such ideas? I would say the latter.

Come on, in the long run does a pass and go consultant really care how successful your framework will be 3-4 years down the road? I understand the good ones will since they're probably in that line of work for the long run and hope that word or mouth will get out that they've done a stand up job. But really, how many books and seminars about the latest craze (which will always be everchaning) can you attend before you finally start doing a good job at writing software? And honestly, who's to say that some other way isn't just as productive? Come on, there's more than one way to make a meat loaf.

So, we have to understand that these people don't always care so much about offering a good product, but they do care about making money. So as long as it is profitable to write books and hold seminars and teach people how they should carry out daily tasks and emphasize how important it is to stand up during daily status meetings, the someone will be there to sell it. Whether or not it is a good product.

Today's rant is brought to you by me and the thoughts and expressions expressed here are the sole oppinions of me, myself, and I and can be shared as so.

I'm working on some more stuff along these lines if anyone is interested, I'm not yet sure if it will make it to press, but really who reads this blog anyway?

Until next time
Les

October 2, 2006

My Nintendo Top 10 minus 5

At work I started trying to put together a Top 10 of the most popular Nintendo Characters of all time. I really wanted to find characters that had begun on the Classic NES and continued to be successes on each Nintendo platform. What we found when trying to do a top 10 was that it began looking like a Who’s Who for the Super Mario franchise, so after some thoughtful consideration I trimmed it down to a Top 5 and left it at that. It’s a pretty easy list, but for what it’s worth:


5) Donkey Kong
One of the classics, I’d say the only reason old DK is not higher on the list is that this was a popularity contest, and kids these days just ain’t what they used to be.

4) Samus Aran
If you don’t recognize the name it’s probably because you’ve referred to our heroine only by her franchise name, Metroid. Since it’s inception on the classic NES there has been a popular Metroid game on all (or most all) Nintendo platforms. Samus is that female bounty hunter you get to play.

3) Link
Again, you may only know this character by franchise. But, altogether the Zelda name has made this little guy one of the most welcome character on any Nintendo screen. One of the most demanded names in all video-game-dom (sorta opinionated, but I still just put him at 3 since our next 2 are probably way more popular as far as house-hold names go).

2) Pikachu
To my surprise those little “Gotta Catch ‘em All” Pok√©mon were the brain-child of our good friends at Nintendo. And with the popularity of the franchise as a whole I’d say you could walk into any K-8 public/private school in the US, maybe even the world, and have at least half of the students who are very friendly with our mild mannered little yellow pocket monster.

And without further ado…..

1) You guessed it: Mario
It was the game that came with the console that helped save the video game world from the biggest draught it ever experienced. Super Mario Brothers. And I’d say that not only is it popular among the populace, but I’d say that since this is Nintendo’s very own mascot that they definitely go out of their way to insure that this funny little Italian plumber gets front row on every platform they work on.


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Well, that’s that, let me know if you have any differences. And if you can make a top 10 (from Nintendo created characters) without it being a list of Super Mario friends, then lets have it.

Until next time
Les