Monthly Archives: June 2013

NorDev 1

It’ll be all right on the night!

And it was! OK, so we had one helper and an organiser drop out at the last minute due to illness; my dinner was a bit rushed; I forgot the memory cards for my camera; I forgot to return the memory card I attempted to borrow; I rather fluffed the wonderfully witty and insightful intro talk I was going to do (twice, given we split it into two chunks); and the projector was playing silly buggers… but I don’t think anyone noticed (well, maybe they noticed the projector, but we’re techies, we expect this kind of thing).

NorDev 1 is in the can and Norfolk Developers is on the map. Our opening night saw nearly 50 developers descend on Virgin Wines in Whitefriars to see Liz Keogh and Phil Trelford talk, as well as enjoy a glass of fizz and a brownie or two.

Liz was, as always, fun and engaging as she detailed the differences between lean and agile practices in a 6 round “fight” with a wicked twist at the end. Given most of my team attended the talk I suspect we’ll be adopting much of what was talked about and becoming more lean over the coming weeks and months – actually, even if they hadn’t attended I’d probably be foisting a lot of it on them, but it’s nice to get buy in from the start, and for them to understand why 😀

Phil’s talk was funny and hugely interesting, even for a Java developer like myself. Having a room full of devs meant he could fire up the IDE and write code live during the talk, something that is helpful when faced with a new language. I find myself hankering after something F#esque for the JVM.

Despite the hiccups I think everyone had fun, people found it interesting and, hopefully, will come to NorDev 2 (Wednesday 10th July… which only seems to be 2 weeks away, eeep!). No doubt it’ll bring its own set of hiccups 🙂

Programmed to fail

One aspect of programming that fascinates me is the psychology of software development. To study Agile is to study people and their interactions, and there are some interactions that seem incredibly hard to break.

Given how often software projects overrun it astounds me that the same patterns occur again and again. Developers seem very reluctant to admit they’re late and tend not to question deadlines until its clear the deadline is now ridiculous. There is a hope that, somehow, everything will fall into place and everything will work come delivery time. And yet experience tells us that things invariably go wrong – the hope is irrational and yet near universal.

Those managing the team can easily spot the signs that a project is drifting into trouble. Confident answers to progress become couched in qualifiers. Progress reports become terse, or filled with excuses. Progress reports may also start sounding very similar week on week. At this point the project sponsors should be alerted to the issue, but again people seem to cling onto this hope that everything will be OK. Reporting up is rarely done early enough or emphatically enough.

Reports of delays need to be emphatic and early as, the closer to release date you get, the less willing sponsors seem to be to accept delays. This may be due to hard and fast deadlines (e.g. shipping physical boxes of software), but I’ve seen it in teams where the deadline is nothing more than a notional line in the sand. Yes, moving that line may be problematic, but not nearly as problematic as putting poorly functioning software live, or missing the deadline with no contingency at all. Simply defining delays in the project as “unacceptable” doesn’t make them go away. Software development is an art, not a science and delivery dates should be treated as malleable until the software is actually delivered.

With all three levels refusing to face facts its little wonder that we have the issues in software development that we do. Agile helps us by giving us tools to counter these issues, but until people can get out of the Big Project Mentality the psychology of large deadlines in the distant future becoming looming deadlines in the very near future will prevail.

New Mac Pro: *Want* *Need* :(

Recently I’ve been looking a building a gaming rig. My main desktop now resides at work, and my laptop really isn’t cutting the mustard on the gaming front. Historically I’d just go to Alienware and hand over a few grand, but since they’ve been bought by Dell I’ve found the build quality to be substandard1, and I really don’t have the £40002 for the rig I want. Also the current cases are fugly as hell. My last rig was actually a stupidly expensive Mac Pro – not the best gaming rig in the world, but it’s still going strong some years on. No, the only option was a custom build.

Cue about a week of scouring the internet for cases, and hours upon hours of YouTube reviews and case porn. I want this thing to look good. Seriously good; to the point of taking £300 of my budget and throwing it at a Cosmos 2 case…

…and then Apple announce the new Mac Pro and [almost] all consideration of getting the best gaming rig money can buy goes out of the window. The phrase “shut up and take my money” springs to mind – in fact “shut up and take my firstborn” has crossed my mind :S.

There is just something about [some] Apple designs, and the new Mac Pro flicks my ‘must have‘ switch. The Mac Cube3 was the first Apple product that caused this, then the first, second and 4th iPhones, the iPad 34, and the 30″ cinema displays also caused the same reaction. Luckily for my wallet the iPhone 5 and retina display 13″ MBPs have fallen into the really want category, which I can, with great force of will, resist.

Ultimately I suspect reality is going to come crashing down on me and the need to shift a certain amount of polygons per GBP will win out here5. What I will be left with is a very big, very brash, very fast games rig, but in my heart I will be pining after a fairly small, very sexy, stonkingly expensive workstation. A lottery win would seriously help with this first world problem.


1 It’s kind of upsetting to find out that the water cooling option has simply been rammed into a case designed for air cooling, putting pressure on joints and ultimately causing coolant to spill all over my pair of £1000 [each]2 GFX cards, shorting them, 3 days after I got hold of the rig – and yes, I’m well aware you can add stuff to water coolant that makes it non conductive, and no, I don’t know why they didn’t add it.

2 I don’t piss about when it comes to building rigs.

3 Sadly that was quite a bit of style over substance, and System 9 was shockingly bad. By the time OSX came out and made the machine all it could be the hardware was a bit dated.

4 Sorry, the old “New iPad” – Apple do like to confuse with model names.

5 While I don’t buy the whole “Apple is too expensive” argument as it’s often comparing Apples with pears [or PCs :)], there is no denying that if you want to build something to shift as many polygons as possible for as cheap as possible you want non Apple hardware… and, sadly, Windows.

iOS7

So we’ve finally been given a sneak preview of iOS7 and the internet is now aflame with opinion. I find the reaction to iOS7 as interesting, if not more interesting than the changes they’ve announced.

Since the announcement that Jony Ive was getting involved with iOS speculation about what he would do to it was rife. Skeuomorphism was dead [hurrah!] and iOS, which is getting to be a venerable OS, would be given a facelift. The irony is that, although large portions of both Haters and Fanbois could agree that iOS needed an update, now it’s come everyone is up in arms claiming Apple has screwed the pooch.

The cries of “you’ve ruined it, change it back!” seem to be a common theme for the Facebook generation – just look at every single Facebook update ever – and it’s not just limited to Facebook. Those people I know who have actually used iOS7 have been pleasantly surprised; even those who were secretly hoping to hate it. This is a big change for Apple and one of the first big steps in a post Jobs world. The sensible people are sitting up and taking notice, including those on the opposite side of the fence in Camp Android. Apple have a tendency of upsetting the apple cart [if you’ll excuse the pun] with these kinds of moves and people generally didn’t notice until it’s too late. The smart money has cottoned on to this.

Yes, Apple may have screwed the pooch – I don’t know, I haven’t used it. The baying hounds who proclaim Apples downfall at every turn may be right this time (after all, it stands to reason that they will eventually be right), but lets get iOS7 released and into the hands of everyone for a few months before we call it. I suspect that after the shock of change has worn off people will be asking why Apple didn’t do it sooner. I certainly can’t wait to get my hands on it.