My computer (er-geek) life
Code as Design 
Saturday, March 19, 2005, 09:26 PM
I just read some really interesting essays by Jack W. Reeves about software design. They point out several important aspects of software design, including the source code. The author wrote that code (coders?) help design the software as a whole and its importance should not be underestimated as it is very often the case.

Funny quote I heard yesterday: "We use a secure file transfer protocol at work. People call it secure because when a file is transferred, we are certain that the file written on the other side is the same as the one that was sent". Now that's security :)
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A Short Story About Nearly Everything 
Tuesday, March 1, 2005, 01:50 PM
I just finished listening to A Short Story of Nearly Everything, by the popular author Bill Bryson, and narrated by Richard Matthews.
A great work of vulgarization (in the good sense!) about the history of science, with a special emphasis on physics and geology. Many interesting facts, stories, and anecdotes about both who and what made science what it is today. The light and humorous tone of the writing (and narration) made the book a real treat to listen to, turning what could have been a boring exposé into a captivating story.

I'm now starting Deception Point by the now massively popular Dan Brown. After listening through his three other books, I feel this author is largely overrated, with poor characterizations but definitely enthralling plots. We'll see how things turn out in this one.
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The Concurrency Revolution 
Monday, February 28, 2005, 12:26 PM
There's been quite some stir lately, regarding multi-core dies in the next generation of mainstream processors from the likes of Intel, AMD, or IBM. As contenders seem to shift from the gigahertz hype, upcoming personal computers will likely feature powerful SMP capabilities with a relatively slow evolution of frequencies.

The shift towards multithreaded, concurrent applications is a turn most developers will have to take as this great article by Herb Sutter convincingly exposes. Sutter writes, among many other things, that "Concurrency is the next major revolution in how we write software". Performance improvements will not be as easy as just waiting for the next gigahertz monster: there will be some major efforts to be made by the developers in order to make full use of the upcoming hardware technologies.

As a side note; people already had trouble choosing their processors: which brand? What are those numbers beside the processor's name? Explaining multicore to your mom won't be easy, but who needs to understand when you've got questionable marketing?
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It's not only what's inside that counts 
Tuesday, February 22, 2005, 05:14 PM
During my internship, two years ago, my boss told me something that stuck ever since:

For the user, something that doesn't look good is the same as something that doesn't work.

I was working on a web application and focused too much on the technical aspects and not enough on the look and feel of the final product. As I added a consistent user interface to my program, it became a lot more credible even though its functionalities remained the same.

I have seen several working programs that were dismissed by the user(s) because their interfaces were either too archaic, too complex or simply ugly. This happens most of the time when users are not accustomed to UIs (or computers in general) or when they lack the time/will to deal with something that should be, in their opinion, trivial to use. Should users be blamed for their reluctance to adapt? Not if the programmer can help it.
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Just for aesthetics 
Saturday, February 19, 2005, 08:43 PM
A while ago, my girlfriend told me about a colleague who didn't want to comment his code. When she asked him to add some comments to his sources so that she would be able to understand it later on, he replied "We'll worry about the looks later".

Just what kind of IT professional would say such a thing? Some people think that comments are just for looks. They definitely are not, and the reasons are trivial, especially for anyone who has ever had to read someone else's, or even sometimes his or her own, code.
There are many tools out there to simplify commenting, almost all IDEs now include auto-comment features so that the developer needs only fill in the blanks, documentation generators will parse comments and generate all kinds of pre-formatted documentation that will help everyone, including the developer, better understand the inner-workings of the program.

Writing a comment takes one less than a minute. Not understanding code causes many to lose hours. Not commenting does not save time.
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