Name: Andrew Gilmartin
Member since: 2000-11-16 17:51:29
Last Login: 2009-05-21 19:19:37


I'm paid to write software. Much of the time I try and stop software from being written, however. Writing software is easy. Knowing when it is right and why it is right to write software is much harder.

Articles Posted by andrewgilmartin

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Once upon a time, long long ago, I once asked a toy maker how he could use an online tool to facilitate communication between all parties involved in building a toy. (If the toy is a girl doll that talks then you have clothing designers, mold makers, mechanical engineers (the leg bone is connected to the thigh bone, etc), embedded systems engineers, toy brokers or companies, parts suppliers, etc. There is a long list of specialists.) He told me that he would not use it. The reason it added another means of communication to the project. And further, the communication did not allow for the transfer of all the artifacts of the project -- examples of molded pieces for example. His current modes of communication worked well for him and his business. Telephone calls where handled by his assistant, postal mail came once a day at 1pm, and FedEx came once a day at 11am. These where the points in his day when the vast majority of people working on the project contacted him. His day was thus mostly uninterrupted time with which he could concentrate on the project at hand.

The principles here are that the tools should not add another mode of communication and should not frequently interrupt your day. Most tools out there do both. (Software folk seem to be obsessed with the clock inside their computer.)

In my office text email and instant messaging (im) are the tools of choice. To facilitate projects in my office a tool should allow communication via email and im. For example, want yesterday's project signature (used with scrum development) send a simple request to a chat-bot via im and have it return the signature via email (or perhaps a URL in the im response). For example, expect to receive a project status summary in email each morning between 7am and 9am.

Most tools want you to be in the tool's interface. I want my project management tools to be in my communication interface.

Why is there no good and simple table editor? All I am looking for is a tool that will edit and reorder a text file full of tab delimited data. A Textpad for cellular files.

You should read Dan Briklin's weblog. He doesn't post very often but when he does it is always insightful. His recent posting about the notion that you can't push technology beyond where it is useable by humans is a good example. Formula 1 race cars did this and the technology was banded to ensure safety. Most office applications -- those on Lunix as well as Windows -- seem to have reached this point. Perhaps they shouldn't be described as feature laden. Perhaps it is simpler to say that they surpass normal human capacity to utilize. The F1 car crashes into the wall and the court papers' sections' numbering mysteriously begin at 27.

7 Jan 2002 (updated 7 Jan 2002 at 19:45 UTC) »

I have been mostly programming in Perl for the last three years. Thanks to CPAN and the acquired experience I can get quite a bit done in a short amount of time. Now I am thinking about working in Python and C++ again and the lack of a CPAN equivalent is distressing.

So, I have started to think about a tool for those that want to create services like CPAN. The basic features are

  • HTTP accessible archive of modules for both human and machine.

  • Modules have type, version, and dependencies. Perhaps a general set of named attributes.

  • Contributions can be upgraded directly by contributor and maintainer.

  • Contributions can be downgraded directly by contributor and maintainer.

  • Sites can be mirrored easily.

  • Module installation registry on local host.

  • Simple command line tool for incorporating new modules into an installation.

  • Simple command line tool for incorporating upgraded and downgraded modules into an installation.

As a general tool perhaps the most you could is to coordinate the archive's content with a local and limited copy of it, and then coordinate the incorporation of the local modules into some default base installation. (SWIG has done a great job over the years at unifying the creation of C and C++ extensions for scripting languages. I am sure there is much experience and advice here we need to keep in mind.)

Anyway, it would be nice to have something to offer the Python, C++, Ruby, JavaScript, etc communities.

Before going further I really should see what CPAN has.

I the early 90s I contributed to the then hot communications technology -- Gopher. I built Sextant, the first (non-Hypercard) Gopher client for the Macintosh. Even today it has one feature that I miss in browsers and that is saving window position and size information kept with a bookmark: Having this allowed you to organize your desktop and then quickly restore it on restart.

A few places standardized on it. But in the end it died out as TurboGopher (I think this is what it was called) come out and had support for many more data types. I don't know what happened to Sextant's code.

Thanks to Google I can still see my announcements: q=sextant+gopher&selm=9209101851.AA20207%

What was bigger than Sextant was it inspired me to start the THINK Class Library mailing list. The TCL was a class library that came with the Lightspeed compiler. This was my first introduction to C++ and application frameworks. It was a good introduction as C++ was small, TCL was small, and it allowed me to build a good Macintosh application with much less effort and with more features than anything I had done previously. I wanted to share my experience with TCL with others and to get others help in using it better. The mailing list (later the news group comp.sys.mac.oop.tcl) and code archive lasted for several years. It even survived the transition from my maintenance to others. It to had a natural death as other technologies surpassed it.

Thanks to Google I can still see my announcements: q=gilmartin+tcl&selm=1g8eiaINNroo% 40cat.cis.Brown.EDU&rnum=1

What was novel about the archive at the time was that I organized it by contributor and topic. At the time all archives where anonymous FTP hierarchies organizaed by topic. I felt that the contributor should get as much acknowledgement as the code contributed.

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