Older blog entries for AlanShutko (starting at number 23)

Doing lots of real work and trying to hack when time permits.

djcb: With a revived love of TeX and Emacs 21, you sound like a perfect tester for preview-latex, which will insert previews of math, figures, and tables directly into your Emacs buffer. It's been the only free software I've had time to help with lately, and it's really neat.

The biggest problem about Code Red so far is the huge amounts of concern it causes among people who run "personal firewalls" and are freaking out about lots of ARPs and failed port 80 hits. Especially those who have ZoneAlarm set to pop up a window every time something tries to connect to port 80. They complain "This is ridiculous, I can't get any work done because I have to keep closing this popup! Make these attacks stop!"


There's little more frustrating than learning new things without the chance to use them.

I've been reading all sorts of guide to good programming. Design Patterns and the like. Unfortunately, I'm currently in a job where nobody's heard of SDLC, nobody has time to apply it, all architectural work was done years ago, and it's a matter of adding a business rule here and a report there. OO? Not even a consideration. We can't even come up with a decent set of internal tools, either because nobody will agree on them, nobody is given time to implement things people agree on, or they are still-born because "you can't teach all [five] of the developers to do that."

Now, while rigorous software design could surely help this company, it's hard to convince other people of that where average projects need to be done in a week and there are vast expanses of code that are so fragile that any attempt to modify them break... even when the person doing the modification has been with the company for >10 years.

This has taught me something: you must keep some distance from customer demands. Part of our problem is that we try to provide extremely short turnaround on customer requests, quoting them a price and due date before getting anything more than a vague request. There are no requirements drawn up, yielding the expected iteration of code, test, deliver, repeat. There's no time for reflection, to think whether the architecture needs to be changed, or how this should be generalized.

Regression testing was attempted and abandoned before I arrived at the company, and internal documentation is of the "Ask Bob" variety.

Combine this with the report that ebizo mentioned, and it amazes me that any software works at all. Where are the companies that follow good practices? (And are any on Long Island hiring?)

8 Jun 2001 (updated 8 Jun 2001 at 01:11 UTC) »

I think you should be happy about the fact that the iBook finally has a halfway decent resolution LCD even if it did lose the annoying color scheme. As a Thinkpad toter, I'm rather happy bith my black slab, since it's bigger and faster than an iBook, which means I can have more fun with it. (Of course, it also cost more....) If you're more concerned with appearance than what's inside, get a can of spraypaint....


Time for me and my black slab to do a crosscountry trip, unfortunately the only hacking I'll likely do will be work-related. But it did give me an excuse to pick up a power inverter so I can charge in the car.

Have the new replacement for Springies set up, which is good. Still need to set up the CD-RW, which will involve tithing for a new SCSI cable.

No substantial hacking on anything lately... real life has intruded.

Note to self: It's nice that your laptop can go till lunch on battery, but it would be even nicer if you remembered to bring the power cord so it didn't have to!

This just hasn't been my morning. I'm out of Dr Pepper at work and I forget my power supply. Duh....

Not much hacking done lately. I'm putting a replacement together for my home server, to replace the 6.5 year old Pentium 60. It still works, but it's gotten to the point where I'm afraid to open it up for fear it won't start up again. The new machine is a PowerEdge 1400SC from Dell. It's not running the factory RHL install since I'm switching machines over to Debian. The only unhappiness about that is the server agent won't work... but Dell doesn't supply kernel modules for any recent kernel anyway. They really should wake up and see that not even RH thinks 2.2.16 is a good idea anymore.

Picked up a USB joystick to play old Wing Commander IV. So I have my first USB toy and it already works under Linux. Very good, anyone who had anything to do with it!

One fewer sourceless project on sourceforge. Scrapbook has been released. Don't let the high version number induce thoughts of stability or features! But since the app has worked for me for a couple years, I felt it deserved the version number of 0.02.

Wow. Been busy lately.

Got my domain name working, so everyone can visit my incipient website. I haven't maintained a website in at least 3-4 years, so this is from scratch. Learning CSS and catching up on HTML4 so that it hopefully sucks not as much as other sites.

While I'm doing this, I've started a sourceforge project for Album (now Scrapbook). I intend to do a quick replace of the names and upload CVS onto there, then do a quick release of things as they are now. It isn't a perfect app, but it works for me and hopefully more users will induce me to spend more time improving it. I'll post a link to the project as soon as it actually has something up... at least a minimal webpage or something.


Does this help you out?

ANSI C grammer for Yacc

Gack. A general malaise has set in. I don't know what... I think I go need to fly a kit, but I haven't had the right wind for it.

Lots of things I want to play with at the moment, just not sure what to do next. Write house LaTeX styles? Learn more about databases? Fix mmm-mode so it does heirarchical regions for cweb? Who knows. I should just keep watching for some wind.

2 Mar 2001 (updated 2 Mar 2001 at 19:46 UTC) »

You, too, seem to misunderstand the difference between free software and open source.

Take a look at this FSF page. Here's my quick explanation.

Specifically, free software does not require that the software be copylefted. Even RMS acknowledges that X-licensed software is free software.

In general, free software is the same software as open source software. But the emphasis is different. The free software movement emphasized the freedom to do whatever you want with software. This scares companies, so the open source movement deemphasizes this (though it's still in the OSD) and emphasizes the improvement in code that you get from having many people work on your code.

History: "Open source" as a term came about because of ambiguities in the term "free software". Unfortunately, it's just as ambiguous, as shown by people thinking SCSL software is open source.

other news:

Well, my delightful wife got me springies.com for my birthday. It's the domain name that came to me in a dream. I don't have any real hosting for it right now... just the domain name and some free services from the registrar pointing http://www.springies.com somewhere else. I want to switch to DSL and run the domain from home, but haven't gotten fully into DSL Roulette yet.

More fun with mmm-mode.

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