Archive for August, 2001


managing chaos

Wednesday, August 29th, 2001

One of the great lessons in life is that chaos is inevitable. Once you learn that there is no face lost in abandoning all hope of completely avoiding chaos, you can much more comfortably get down to the task of managing how to decide which bits of it are worthy of your attention, and more importantly, which are not.

Many people come to this epiphany when they have their second child. All the angst spent worrying about potential crises with the first child turns into considered risk management. With the first one it’s “Oh my God – keep him away from that – it’s got dirt on it!!”, and panic sets in. With the second one it’s “Well, it’s only dirt”, and serenity flows.

The trick is continually to assess issues on the amount of influence you have in determining their outcome. If you have no
influence, your worrying isn’t going to help it, so don’t worry.
If you have a moderate amount, do what you can and be satisfied that you’ve done your best. If you have great influence, then set it as a priority and influence away. No time to worry.

In order to reduce the amount of issues coming at you, preventive medicine is a Good Thing (TM). In the development sphere, I can think of a few ways to manage complexity.

  • Endeavour to keep things predictable. Use a staged development environment (Dev/Test/Prod). Implement change control and stick to it.
  • Implement a source control / concurrent versioning system. Conflicts are reduced, rollback/forward, archiving are all automatic.
  • Share and reuse knowledge. Newsgroups, forums, blogs, bookshelves, magazine collections, FAQs, knowledge bases, code repositories, links
  • Keep your eyes open for other tools and processes which help you to manage complexity


Tuesday, August 28th, 2001

Reading old notes to self:

  • always buy the groovy extra warranty on laptops
  • copy stuff from laptop to server a lot
  • don’t keep any critical stuff on laptop only
  • have a spare laptop just in case

It’s a good thing I read my notes to myself. They came in handy today.

Another helpless victim swooped.

“The full weight of the owl came down on my head,” swooping victim Barbara Baird told the daily. “I had no time to react at all.”

I think it’s about time we banded together to fight swooping in all its pernicious forms. Maybe a PBS telethon to raise research money to help rehabilitate those afflicted by this terrible trauma.



Wednesday, August 22nd, 2001

Eric Norlin streams consciousness about amateurism. I could go on for hours, but for now, I’ll just say:

“What he said.”


xml-rpc grooviness

Tuesday, August 21st, 2001

scottandrew has made a cool Javascript XML-RPC packaging library which he uses with JSRS to communicate to a server-side XML-RPC proxy.

Wow. Neat. Keen.


wireless moles

Tuesday, August 21st, 2001

Dave and Doc are in Colorado at Jabbercon.

Doc tells of how a kind soul plugged in an 802.11b base station to bring connectivity to the masses. Neat.

Sounds like an interesting new industrial espionage technique. Get into the building, under some anonymous clerk’s desk, throw in a cheap hub to split the connection and a wireless base station, and you’ve got a conduit right into their network. If they don’t do 802.11 themselves, they won’t even consider that they could be compromised.



Saturday, August 18th, 2001

Seamless. Put it in a sentence and you’ve got immediate buzzword compliance. Look around on the net and you’ll see it used in context perhaps one time out of a hundred. It’s popped into marketing blurbs with no thought whatsoever to its relevance. Doesn’t anyone read this crap before it gets published? They might as well say their software smells like the first day of spring – it’s just as relevant.

Dunno about where you are, but here in Toronto, the first day of spring smells like six months worth of dogshit thawing out on the lawn.


coding completely

Thursday, August 16th, 2001

Chris points to some code indentation styles.

I’m definitely a K&R style braces/indentation guy. Also, I’m a two-space guy. Two spaces is just enough to show you structure, doesn’t make line lengths crazy, and is easy to enter/delete when typing.

What about the tabs argument? I absolutely prefer to use spaces and not tabs, and I set up my editors to replace tabs with spaces. I find that otherwise, in a project touched by a few people, you get some tabs, some spaces, and it looks different and/or broken in everyone’s editor with different tab-size settings. Use spaces and it will always look the same. Editors these days are smart enough to tab two spaces and indent and outdent blocks etc without tab characters in the code.

I’ve converted some hardcore tab guys on this issue. Takes them a while, but pretty soon they can’t find any real reason to use tabs instead of spaces in code. I’d be glad to hear of any show-stopping reasons in favour of tabs, though.


wing ding

Wednesday, August 15th, 2001

I think someone could make a killing by separating chicken wings into two pieces as you often find them, but then selling just the biceps. They’re the ones that always get eaten first.