A place for SGML and XML application developers.

March 17, 2008

The Word ‘Just’

Filed under: Rants/Musings — cangione @ 8:56 pm

‘Just’ is a four letter word that has no place on development projects.  That’s right, I advocate an all out ban on the word! No exceptions.

When trying to estimate the amount of work it will take to complete something, using the word ‘just’ as a bridge makes it easier to estimate things optimistically.   A.H. Weiler once said “Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself“. I would add the word ‘just’ is that man’s best friend

I actually make a game out of banning the word on my projects or during conversations where I’m trying to get to the bottom of something . It is amazing to me how the conversation changes when descriptions  like “Then the file is just downloaded to the desktop.” are not allowed. In this example, either the file is downloaded to the desktop or we are using the word ‘just’ to gloss over the fact that 5 other things need to happen to the file on the way to the desktop!

When you use the word ‘just’  enough on a project,  it can make three years worth of work seem like something that can be accomplished in 3 months!  Kurt Alder said “Tradition is what you resort to when you don’t have the time or the money to do it right“. The quote works equally well with the word ‘just’ instead of ‘tradition’

Don’t fall into the ‘just’ trap!

November 28, 2007

The Wrong Side of the Road

Filed under: Rants/Musings — cangione @ 5:23 pm

Salt Lake City Airport  is in the middle of a large project to reorganize the airport parking situation. Instead of two lots they have consolidated long term parking into a single large lot with new shelters while you are waiting for the bus. The new shelters are beautiful in comparison to the old airy steel ones they used to have. The only problem is that they are situated on the wrong side of the road! So when the bus comes you have to walk across the road in front of the bus to board.

Rumor has it that the reason the shelters are on the wrong side of the road is because the company designing the new parking lot didn’t bother to consult with the bus drivers and planned to have the bus start from the far side of the lot…..So before dropping off a single passenger in the lot, the bus had to drive 1/4 of a mile to enter the lot…… In practice the route didn’t exactly work out very well. I don’t think it even made a week. So now the buses enter the lot from the “wrong end”  but start dropping off and picking up passengers very quickly at the various stops.

Am I the only one that thinks some studies and modeling could have been done to have avoided this situation?  So as I stand at the nice new bus shelters on my way to a consulting engagement and before crossing the road to catch the bus, I always remind myself to make sure that I talk with the various end users of a system I’m designing! I hope this approach will ensure that none of my creations end up on the wrong side of the road!

November 19, 2007

Not your typical Windows Quick Launch Toolbar

Filed under: Rants/Musings,Software,Uncategorized — cangione @ 7:50 pm

Windows Vista took a step backward when it comes to the Quick Launch toolbar. You used to be able to undock the Quick Launch toolbar in XP and dock it to say the left side of your computer screen. No more. In Vista it is glued to the Taskbar with superglue! Not accepting defeat, I started looking for an alternative paradigm for my frequently used programs that would work with Vista. I found two programs that are based on the Mac concept of a taskbar.

The two programs that I reviewed:

RK Launcher:

RK Launcher is a free application that will allow the user to have a visually pleasing bar at the side of the screen that is used to quickly launch shortcuts. With support for themes, PNG’s and ICO’s and with smooth animations, it is a good Quick Launch replacement.
RK Launcher


RocketDock is a smoothly animated, application launcher. It provides a nice clean interface to drop shortcuts on for easy access and organization. With each item completely customizable there is no end to what you can add and launch from the dock. Minimized windows can appear as icons on the dock.


In the end, I went with RocketDock. It seemed to supply slightly better customization support and seemed to work better with Vista. I would however recommend either for an XP based machine.

Charles Angione

July 26, 2007

I’ve Become a Font Snob

Filed under: Books,CSS,Rants/Musings,XML,XSL — cangione @ 1:05 am

It’s two in the morning. I’ve been done with the content of the document I’m working on for two hours and I just finished selecting the fonts I’m going to use. This is kinda geeky even by my standards.

I blame “The NON-DESIGNER’S COLLECTION” by Robin Williams and John TOLLETT. After reading the three books I guarantee you will never look at serif and sans serif fonts the same way again. After a couple of arduous hours, I’ve finally selected “Franklin Gothic Medium” as my sans serif font and “Book Antiqua” as my serif font, although I would have preferred to use “RotisSemiSerif” but didn’t feel like paying 200 bucks for the font.

Charles Angione

April 11, 2007

Review of the Sony Reader

Filed under: Books,Rants/Musings,Uncategorized — cangione @ 7:46 pm

Way back in 2001 I bought my first e-book reader. It was about the size of a paperback book and was comfortable to hold in my hand. They went out of business at least in part because of the restrictions they put on the content you could upload to the device. They went out of business and I was devastated! I have to carry books and magazines again! Horrible.

Finally after years of waiting a new e-book reader has emerged from Sony. I went and played with a Sony Reader today. The reader is slim, sexy, and easy to hold in one’s hand. Definitely on my short list of must have tech toys.

Some observations:

  • Price: On the high side at $300 to $349. As a consultant and someone who travels all the time I think I fall into Sony’s ideal initial market. I’d be happy at something more like $200 to $250 which was the price of the 2001 reader.
  • Content: Sony at least hasn’t made the same mistake as others in this space and allows you to upload PDF, TXT, RTF and Word documents besides e-books. It will even play MP3s.
  • Additional Items: For 350 bucks you would think Sony could give you a nice book-like cover to protect your expensive device. Nope. Buy one on Amazon.
  • Back Light: I wish it had one. I really enjoyed reading in low light situations with my other reader. Just like a real book, the Sony Reader requires that you have a reading light. While not having a back light heps with battery life I think this was boneheaded.
  • Charles Angione

    March 13, 2007

    Entropy and Software Bugs

    Filed under: Rants/Musings,Software — cangione @ 9:15 pm

    Entropy is defined as “A measure of the disorder of a system.

    While entropy got it’s start in thermodynamics, it applies equally well to software development. Specifically late changes to the system design or bug fixing after a release.

    Theoretically if you have a small system with only a few developers and you designed your architecture well, the initial version of a system is fairly clean. No nasty patches, no hacks to keep the thing limping along. Yeah right. Either way, the original development team has probably poured their guts also know as energy into the system to create order from disarray (like the socks in your drawer).

    As additional releases with new features and patches are applied to the system entropy increases. The system starts to break down. The system requires more and more developer energy just to keep it going as the patches and new features take away from some of the original elegance. What’s the smart developer to do?

    I advocate that certain releases of a system introduce no new features, stop attempting to fix bugs and simply get the house in order. Allow modules to be rewritten taking into account all that has been learned since the original release. In short decrease the systems entropy again.

    I like the way this is summarized by Frederick Brooks, JR in “The Mythical Man-Month”

    ..program building is an entropy–decreasing process hence inherently metastable. Program maintenance is an entropy increasing process, and even its most skillful execution only delays the subsidence of the system into unfixable obsolescence.

    Charles Angione

    February 11, 2007

    A Practical Software Development Methodology

    Filed under: Rants/Musings,Software — cangione @ 4:09 pm

    The 12 questions were originally developed by Joel Spolsky a former program manager at Microsoft that worked on Excel. Under each question additional observations from my experiences.

    1. Do you use source control?

      If not you are out of control. Even with a single developer.

      All code, support programs, build files, help files, etc, should be put into the repository. Code should be checked-in frequently once it is in a state that it is not likely to cause problems to other developers. A private branch can be used to check-in intermediate work without affecting other developers, to be merged into the main project branch once it is in a stable state.

    2. Can you make a build in one step?

      This is the only efficient way to make sure you are not introducing human error into the build.

    3. Do you make daily builds?

      Computers are only too happy to work overnight. Continuous integration helps make integration weeks a non event.

    4. Do you have a bug database?

      MS Excel doesn’t count. Resist all attempts by the program manager to export the Bug List to Excel! Anyone (including customers) should be able to log a bug. Don’t stick the bug database behind your corporate firewall. It leads to MS Excel documents.

    5. Do you fix bugs before writing new code?

      Important ones anyway.

    6. Do you have an up-to-date schedule?

    Vacation schedules. Agree upfront that vacations are sacred. The project team should be able to do without a team member for awhile. Release schedules are also important although problematic.

    The word just should NEVER enter a schedule discussion….just means it should already be done.

    1. Do you have a spec?

      Not a novel. A spec may be a cocktail napkin, UML diagrams, UI Mockup whatever is useful. Define useful as someone actually reads it and comments on it!

    On UML

    UML gets a bad name from Use cases. All those little bubbles and stick figures. Who cares? They are really the beginning not the end. Use cases should turn into activity diagrams etc.

    One of the things that I find amazing is that you can write a hundred page spec and get no comments but you can present a series of UML diagrams and get everyone to actually read them! A picture is worth a thousand words.

    1. Do programmers have quite working conditions?

      Quite conditions for coding. You also need a team area for integration and testing.

    2. Do you use the best tools money can buy?

      Money isn’t everything but it sure helps build and infrastructure. Lots of applications don’t cost money these days but hardware and infrastructure do. Don’t skimp.

    3. Do you have testers?

      Should be familiar with things like virtualization.

    4. Do new candidates write code during their interview?

    Spend time interviewing candidates. New people are disruptive.

    1. Do you do hallway usability testing?

    Solicit others input.

    Comments (0)

    January 17, 2007

    100 Million IE 7 Installs

    Filed under: Rants/Musings — cangione @ 10:07 pm

    Lots of press this week about Microsoft and the rapid adoption of IE 7. I’m not sure I would be bragging about 100 Million IE 7 Installs when their Software Update tool is the one that is cramming it down most users throats……..Maybe it’s just me.

    C. Fold

    October 25, 2006

    Developer Law – No Spaces in File or Directory Names

    Filed under: Rants/Musings — cangione @ 7:46 pm

    I have been enjoying the Miller Lite “Man Law” commercials that have been on this season with the recordist sitting at the end of the table to write down all the laws. After the day I had chasing down a stupid escape problem for a space in a directory name I submit that leaving out spaces in directory and file names should be a “developer law”. By convention, I typically use underscore to replace the space (Example: Developer_Rants). I’ve also seen some people “Camel Case” the words (DeveloperRant).

    July 5, 2006

    Goodbye Palm

    Filed under: Rants/Musings — cangione @ 3:54 am

    I threw out my wife’s Palm V tonight. I was kind of sad about throwing away a perfectly good device till I reflected that I’ve done without my Palm Pilot for over a year and don’t know how to live without my Blackberry! I update a contact in MS Outlook and it just shows up on my Blackberry. Sync? Why the hell would i want to do that? Notes, Tasks list …. Same Question?

    Being of the instant gratification generation, I want one device and I want it to do everything! Sorry Palm, you have become irrelevant in my life…..Now if I could just say the same about MS Outlook!


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