Friday, 20 January 2017

People : Donald Trump

This afternoon, in a few tens of minutes actually (by the time I schedule this post) there will be a new President of the United States of America.  A controversial figure, whom some might argue didn't win the election in a 100% clear cut fashion (his opponent - Hilary Clinton - won the popular vote, and then there's a little grey area with foreign involvement in the whole process).

But, I'm British, so I'm not too invested in who the man is, I am more interested in his politics, he's a half Scottish, through his Mother and has close ties to Britain.

We ourselves are not enamoured with the whole EU affair, and so trade avenues with the US may now open back up.  I certainly have a vested interest in the US economy as one of my pensions is tied up over there in a US fund, but for the tiny amount I put into that pension it's paying for itself, and depending on how things look in a years time, I may have to jolt things around.

However, we're left guessing about the next steps he will take, we can not tell whether he'll stick to all his pledges or promises.  He is however a business man, rather than a dyed in the wold politician, so he may have more rancur than previous presidents elect.

But politics aside the question today then is what will happen with the man?  Will, with protesters, detractors and so many unhappy voters in the US, both foreign and domestic, will the man survive?

This is a very serious question, one of the major points of out going president Obama's calls was for gun reform, however, everyone and their granny is seemingly still packing a piece in the US, even in liberal New York City & Washington DC.

So, will he survive the day?  The week?  The Year or his whole term?  I think that is an important question to ask.

As for the politics, we can but wait and see, though I believe the markets will heave this afternoon and though the seas may not boil and the sky may not fall, Donald Trump will be sworn in.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Development : Microsoft Tools Troll the Office

Today, I've been working on a brand new project, which literally I thought was parked just yesterday... My mistake it seems this project was expected to be being worked on.. A coworker is currently slogging through the same API but for a different (embedded platform) and it's taken him quite a while.

So the product owner for this new piece of software from me (which is to call XML Web Services through SOAP up stream and a hardware device over USB or serial down stream) was quite upset when they arrived at my desk and asked how their product was coming, and my reply was "Doesn't exists, waiting for the hardware".

After a short, and shirty, moment with them I assured them I would do all I could with the interface, implement ALL the XML Web Service calls through the published ASMX tomorrow... Which is today... They looked sceptical, gave me that long stare saying "no, no you won't"....

And of course I have!... Microsoft Visual Studio Troll tool award of the day, it is so simple to work with a published ASMX, just add a service reference to the URL and it generated everything for you, then tell C# you're using that name space and voila there it all is laid out for you on a platter.

I just finished this project, less than 5 hours after starting it, so have dished it back to the product owner to find the hardware, I know they're not going to believe how quickly I've completed this cycle on the development, not least because the other chap has been on it weeks and has only done about 60% of the calls so far... Yeah, I say... But he's not using troll Tools.

Sometimes, times like this in fact, I quite like C#... Don't let on, it's my dirty secret.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Administrator : Shredded Drive Bays

Yes we've all had to dispose of redundant data, be that drives or disks, I've even had to shred paper cards in my time... However, I recently came across a bit of a problem, an old Dell Equilogic was being decommissioned.... I had dibs on the unit for redeployment to a small development team.

Out of the Enterprise and into the shop floor, trickle down economics right?!  Right?!  RIGHT?!??!?


The staff decommissioning said to one of their minions, remove the drives from this unit and put them through the shredder....

So he did... Literally, he pulled the drives in their bays and sent them off for disposal...

Yes, the CADDY BAYS!...

He was meant to remove the drives and put the caddies back into the unit, then shred the drives.

Now we have to find new caddies, on a zero budget, for about £18 a caddy... And we need twelve of them... So in thirty seconds this has cost about £216 hardware replacement costs, lest my time and the time of the poor guy who I sent scouring the place for these already trashed units.

The moral of this story, teach your staff what a drive is, what a caddy is, how a screw driver works...

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Developer : How Big Is Your Floppy?

What are they teaching kids today?  I've just had the pleasure of talking to a gentleman whom has received a degree in computing from Stanford in the United States, I'm sure he paid a fortune for this education... He didn't know how many bytes were in 1.44 megabytes.

He literally said "about 1.44 million".  This was related to an old format of file being taken and converted for transmission over Wifi, the size of the data was relatively immaterial, but the source; historically speaking; was a 1.44 megabyte HD floppy disk, and though the floppy was long gone, the format of the file with it's limitation was not.

It got me thinking though, he was sat there, I'm sure earning more than myself, and he only had a jogging mental map of memory sizes, so I took a look at the Standard website, particularly the CS101 course... sure enough:
  • "Byte" - unit of information storage
  • A document, an image, a movie .. how many bytes?
  • 1 byte is enough to hold 1 typed letter, e.g. 'b' or 'X'
  • Later we'll look at storage in: RAM, hard drives, flash drives
  • All measured in bytes, despite being very different hardware
  • Kilobyte, KB, about 1 thousand bytes
  • Megabyte, MB, about 1 million bytes
  • Gigabyte, GB, about 1 billion bytes
  • Terabyte, TB, about 1 trillion bytes (rare)

Yeah, a terabyte is rare?... NOPE!... A kilobyte is not "about" anything it is exactly 1024 bytes, and a megabyte is not about 1 million bytes, it's exactly 1024 kilobytes, therefore exactly 1048576.  By using this "about" prefix they had made a megabyte sound 4.8576% smaller than it actually is, that's not insignificant!

And so forth.

This looks very much like an out of date page, but it is the first search result from google too!

Even wikipedia gets the right values before this page did!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Development : No Tests before a Prototype

I am NOT a fan of test driven development, does this mean there isn't a place for tests whilst you work?  No, it does not, I believe there is a place for tests whilst you are working, however that place is beyond the initial hard development and broad strokes of laying out the project.

When you first begin a new project there are so many things to consider, settings, scopes, layers, inherited domains just so much you need to physically take from the design pages through your teams brains and down to the keyboard.

I could even define this as a "pre-sprint" within Scrum to push out a product that the owner can then give you that first feedback on; especially if they are none technical and from this point on, from this first step you can cycle through Scrums into Sprints and with that change you can seed your development into more expansion and maintenance of code, when you do that, when you have something to test against then you need to add those tests and start to use them as a tool.

They should not drive your development, they should drive your keeping the developed work in order.  N-Crunch, N-Unit, G-Test... All these frameworks on certain languages (like C# and Java) work very well as you can reflect out the language, but before you can reflect out something with languages like C++ or C you are stuck over-engineering your tests before that first evolution of the project.

There is a name for this first evolution, it's called a Prototype.

Not many teams value a prototype, indeed Scrum itself never mentioned them, you are meant to jump from idea to stories to backlog to releasable code, and in my opinion this is not easy, it's not really communicative of what you are doing either, especially when the product owner is the only person within the development stack whom can redirect the team, but without that first tangible something many product owners can be literally lost.

Earlier this month I talked about the idea that a product owner needed to use the software life-cycle, an old idea, but a good one... Today I'm saying before you can really start to use inline tests within your IDE and before you can start to run scrums you need a prototype, arguably an even older development paradigm.

So what is my point?  Why do I keep bringing this kind of topic to the fore?  Well, simply put I believe there are far too many teams with far too many people in them not willing to push the envelop, whom are not willing to ask questions of the process they are following, not willing to bend or twist or shape the working environment to their way of working whilst simultaneously keeping up the bests practices those processes are there to enforce.

I suppose a Scrum Master should help with this process, but I find far few do, because the division of my problems with these Agile development mantra lie in the disjoint between idea and actually hitting the keys.  At times I see teams which are literally headless, they are a dozen monkeys typing a dozen keyboards, and they're being cheered on by the Scrum master, beyond those walls however they've no idea how it applies to the company, they have no interest or feedback on the return on investment that the Product Owner is all about.

A prototype, beyond a discussion, beyond the initial design, it can form the best kind of spring board and drive the best kind of Product Owner feedback down that chain, but it has to be created unfettered, unburdened by the micro-management of a scrum or sprint, it has to be created in a linear no-none-sense holistic head-space and used as a tool.

This is not being done very often in the teams I see around me.  Perhaps because it is thought of as old school, as a "has-been", however, if you look the hyper success of some products; say Minecraft; it maybe managed however Microsoft want now, it maybe teams running sprints, however Notch started it all with a Prototype.

People : Who is Robert Yates?

I'd love to know who Robert Yates is... I noticed a small bump in my viewing figures, someone had been viewing my site over and over with a source redirection of "".

I've never heard of protopage, so took a look and found my humble blog here being a feed on the page of a one "Robert Yates".

Robert, than you for adding me as a feed on your page, to reside alongside such illuminating voices as Dilbert is great to see, my only question is why?  What brought you to my humble abode?

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Development : Scrum needs a Software Life Cycle

I'm trying to avoid sounding like a dinosaur today, but I have an issue with Scrum... I've been a team member and a scrum master, but I've never really been a product owner, until now... I'm currently in the middle of a large background turn around for my employer where a project which was largely parked and ignored for nearing three years has been awakened like some mammoth from the permafrost.

For the project in question though it had been frozen for a long time, the whole team who worked on it had been let go, I am the soul development survivor.  I therefore find myself the team member, scrum manager and product owner...

And so I'm being pragmatic as I swap roles and perform different tasks, I do have a tester with me, so I have to hold a scrum for him, and I've passed on several stories and he in turn has helped, from the requirements, produce stories for us to tackle head on.

The large part of the work however is from a document, handed to me, and I've been left to generate some movement.

The first thing which has struck me, and something which you never really see mentioned when you look at the Scrum training materials or concepts, is that the product owner needs themselves to have a Software Life Cycle.

They need to Analyse their requirements, to Design what the product should be then hand it over to the team to Implement, before seeing it gets Tested and meets their requirements.... Very much as I was taught the general software life-cycle in the 90's and used it thereafter... Long before Scrum was in vogue.

I asked a peer to review my thoughts on this, that we were driving the development for the requirements at hand with a software development lifecycle, which struck both he and I has "old hat" delving down the chain to the team (still myself, but that will change soon) as a Scrum & Sprint pattern.

Our conclusion is that, indeed a "Product Owner" when they come to think about "AS A <ROLE>, I WANT <FEATURE>, SO THAT I CAN <DO SOMETHING>" stories they are really unguided, that Scrum talks about the team understanding the requirements, but the methodology assumes those above have a good grasp on the requirements.

We went to far as to say that modern development of small light parts, or pages, within an app or web-page might never meet this dichotomy, that you need to guide the whole system and thought about the whole thing long before you come to write your stories, only a large system implementation; such as I am undertaking; might fall into this crevasse.

I can see how easily it might be for myself in this temporary triple role to lead myself off course, I can see how hard it might be for the Product Owner to express what they want, and I look at the Software Development Life Cycle and I think... "If only they'd mention that Product Owners should be along that road before they run into Scrum", some projects might run more smoothly, the tasks of Scrum Masters might be easier.